Using Your Housing Grant for Home Renovations

Air conditioning, appliance additions and other home renovation projects are rarely the first thing that come to mind when you think of housing grants and their uses. Yet, many state and federal housing grants can be used to make improvements to your existing housing. This is particularly true if you are seeking to address serious health and safety problems with your home. 

Examples of grant, loan and combination programs that may give you funds for house repairs include HUD HOME grants, Title I FHA loans, Section 504 Home Repair grants and more. Continue on to learn how to use grants for home repairs. 

Types of Home Grant, Loan and Combination Programs

There are several types of grants you can use toward home renovation expenses, if needed. The types to learn about include:

  • HUD HOME grants, which can cover almost any costs necessary to create safe and affordable housing, including land or property purchases and improvements, new construction, housing stock demolition or relocation and housing subsidies.

  • Title I FHA Loans, which cover accessibility upgrades to make properties functional for individuals with disabilities. They may also pay for the addition or replacement of common utilities and amenities, such as air conditioning, that make your home more functional and improve your quality of life.

  • Section 504 Home Repair grants and loans, which provide funds for very-low-income and elderly homeowners to make their homes safer and healthier, or to modernize them, where necessary, for livability purposes.

  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, which can be used to cover a wide range of activities related to the redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned properties, the improvement of public infrastructure and general economic development. 

State and federal grants for home renovation or other needs are not awarded to individual homeowners. Instead, they are awarded to local partners, such as county, city or local governments, state agencies or not-for-profit organizations. These partners are responsible for identifying eligible homeowners and assisting them in accessing and using available grant funds. 

You can find out what funds are available for home renovations in your area by contacting your local government or USDA representative, who can connect you with the agency or organization in charge of your region. You will need to submit an application for assistance to the responsible agency, following the specific procedures they have established. 

Often, there is more demand for assistance than funds available. If that is the case in your area, you may be placed on a waitlist, until funding becomes available, or referred to another provider for alternative assistance. 

What is the purpose of a housing grant? 

Grant programs that cover house repairs come in many varieties. Their primary purposes may include one or more of the following:

  • Economic development
  • Disaster recovery
  • Increasing accessibility
  • Increasing the availability of safe and affordable housing
  • Protecting vulnerable and at-risk populations
  • Stabilizing, supporting and improving the social and familial underpinnings of a community

Grant programs may seek to realize these goals through certain duties. These include:

  • Moving families from unsafe, unstable housing into other housing.
  • Improving the quality of housing stock in a region by demolishing old construction, and replacing it with new construction.
  • Assisting home and property owners in renovating or repairing their existing homes to address and remove health and safety hazards, and to increase livability and accessibility.  

This is why, in addition to getting funding assistance to secure a new home, you can often also receive funding for home renovation and repairs.

Alternative Uses for Your Housing Grant

If you wish to use a housing grant to fund house repairs, you have a range of options. In some cases, you may be limited by which specific types of funding are available in your area. You may also face restrictions based upon your eligibility factors, such as age and income, and the state of your home. In all cases, funding priority is given to:

  • Repairing and renovating homes with serious health and safety issues.
  • Keeping the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable populations in their homes, where possible.
  • Making homes accessible for individuals with disabilities. 

There are also common uses for grant funding among homeowners who do not wish to purchase new homes. This includes:

  • Refurbishing heating or cooling systems. In many areas of the country, proper heating and air conditioning are not luxuries, but necessities. This is particularly true among more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, making these areas a mainstay for housing grants.
  • Repairs related to natural disaster recovery. While disaster relief organizations generally provide immediate assistance in the aftermath of catastrophes, they are rarely equipped to help people manage the long-term impacts, such as structural damage to their homes or resulting health threats, such as mold. Housing grants fill the gap.
  • Roof replacement. A broken, leaking or unstable roof is a disaster waiting to happen. It can also cause the rest of the house to take serious and progressive damage over time, making the house less safe and less healthy, the longer the problem persists. Replacing roofs is a priority for housing grants as it prevents the need for most costly repairs down the line.  

Some programs provide funds for smaller improvements that improve the livability and accessibility of a home. This includes:

  • Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms to make them accessible for individuals with disabilities. 
  • Remodeling doorways, entryways, and stairways to make them wheel-chair accessible. 
  • Installing dishwashers. 
  • Installing refrigerators or freezers.
  • Installing ovens.
  • Adding other non-luxury amenities and facilities. 
  • Energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Solar energy systems. 

You may be able to use your housing grant for other purposes if the agency or organization responsible for administering the program under certain circumstances. Your requested house repairs can possibly be used toward: 

  • Resolving a direct health or safety threat in your home.
  • Making your home more accessible or livable in necessary, non-luxury ways. 
  • Correcting a serious code violation in your home. 

Common Housing Grant Eligibility Factors

Not all homeowners qualify for home renovation grants or loans. To be eligible for assistance, you must typically:

  • Own your home.
  • Live in your house yourself full-time. 
  • Qualify as low-income or very-low-income under program guidelines. 

Some programs may also require that you meet additional requirements. These include being:

  • Unable to afford or affect repairs on your own, or to find funds or credit elsewhere.
  • Elderly, disabled or a veteran.
  • Legally committed to remaining in your home for a set period of time, such as three years, after the renovations are completed. 
  • Legally committed to certain resale or recapture provisions on your home, under which you could be required to repay the money you received, if you do not comply with program guidelines. 

Requirements vary by program and region, and HUD and the USDA encourage all homeowners in need of assistance with house repairs to apply for assistance, even if they do not believe they will qualify.