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Utah’s rural housing gets a boost from USDA grant, but Cox wants more

Carbon County rural housing, Jerry Heer, 2014
Courtesy USDA Rural Development Utah
Jerry Heer stands in front of his Carbon County home in 2014. USDA grants helped pay for repairs to his roof and windows.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing money to rehabilitate housing in rural Utah.

The $100,000 is part of the USDA’s Rural Development Housing Preservation Grant program. It will go toward expanding access to housing repairs for rural, low-income Utahns through Orem-based Mountain Country Home Solutions and the Uintah Basin Association of Governments.

The program has been around since the 1940s and covers projects like roof repairs and mold treatment.

“We want to preserve homes to be healthy and safe and sanitary,” said Utah State Director for USDA Rural Development Michele Weaver. “And I think that really goes a long way with also helping homeowners to be able to afford their homes better. You get energy efficiency and you're saving on health bills that way.”

The money can’t go toward aesthetic improvements to housing. That means things like fresh paint or landscaping are out of the question.

We really want to improve the efficiency of the home and take care of things that are not making the home safe,” Weaver said. “So something like new appliances would not likely be an acceptable cost.”

Rural housing is a focus for state leaders, too. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox included over $2.7 million for rural and housing rehabilitation projects in his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year.

“Where we use [that money], I think, also really matters as we're rehabilitating housing that is existing now,” Cox told reporters at a Dec. 15 news conference. “We don't want to lose any ground for those low-income vouchers.

Housing advocates also think safe, reliable rural housing is essential for those communities.

“I cannot say enough about the need for the rural areas, especially when they want to attract jobs and keep people in their community,” said Utah Housing Coalition Executive Director Tara Rollins.

“I think that’s a really good investment … Rural areas have a much different need than the rest of the state. They only need a few units, not, you know, 100 units … And so the focus on having money available for the rural areas, I think is really important.

Weaver said the goal is to rehabilitate a dozen homes with the federal money, but more could be helped depending on the project.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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