Islanders have a chance to learn about deferred home improvement loans

Island organizations have partnered with the county to help people fix up their houses.

Through a federally funded King County program, low-income and disabled homeowners and renters can receive grants or no-interest deferred loans to make improvements to their homes that will lower their utility bills or make their home more handicapped-accessible.

Many inexpensive homes are also older homes, said Robert Kajca, an Islander who’s helping get the word out about the home loans and grants. Older homes can have “phenomenal” utility bills, he noted.

“People may be able to pay off the mortgage, but once the utility bills come in, it kills them,” Kajca said. “People’s priorities are going to be paying for the mortgage, paying for food. They’ll dress warm and wear blankets instead.”

Kajca works on Vashon with St. Vincent de Paul and the Interfaith Council on Homelessness, two organizations that help Islanders stay in their homes. The Interfaith Council receives requests every month for assistance with utility bills, he said.

“We see heat is one of the things that goes,” he said.

But rather than losing heat or paying high utility bills, some Island homeowners may make weatherization improvements to their homes at no upfront cost — and in some cases, at no cost at all. Eligibility for the programs depends on income and family size.

Low-income homeowners in King County can receive a loan of up to $25,000 to make upgrades or repairs to their windows, insulation, heating or electrical systems or other parts of their home.The loans are deferred, with no interest, and don’t need to be repaid until the home is sold or refinanced.

The goal, Kajca said, is to reduce the extraordinary utility costs some homeowners experience each winter.

“There’s a real need on the Island for this,” he said. “Our hope is that work can be done before the cold weather sets in.”

Officials from King County and Puget Sound Energy — which also works to help low-income people with utility bills — will hold a meeting 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Vashon Library. Employees from the utility will explain its programs that help keep utilities manageable. Representatives from the county will explain home loan and grant programs for low-income and disabled county residents.

Sign up for the meeting by calling Puget Sound Energy at 463-3688. People are welcome to attend even if they do not sign up beforehand.

Call Robert Kajca at (253) 579-4682 with questions.

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