Housing, business improvement loans available in CARAG

The CARAG neighborhood is offering two new NRP-funded loan programs, one aimed at owners of 4-plus units and the other at neighborhood businesses.

The $350,000 housing-improvement deferred loan program focuses on rental properties, but condominiums and housing cooperatives are also eligible, said Scott Engel, CARAG community coordinator. Last fall, the neighborhood offered a similar loan program to owners of single-family homes, duplexes and triplexes.

In addition to exterior improvements like roof or paint jobs, said Engel, the loans can be used toward making lobby or security improvements.

"A major portion of our housing stock in CARAG is rental housing -- I believe around 80 percent of the residents in the neighborhood live in apartments -- so this is a way to help these folks as well and not just single-family-home owners," Engel said.

The program will match funds on a one-to-one basis and will offer up to $1,000 per housing unit with a maximum of $10,000 awarded, said Engel.

"So, for example, a six-unit building could get up to $6,000," he said.

Payments for the zero-percent loan will be deferred and forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year, Engel added, so after five years the loan essentially becomes a grant.

Applications for the 4-plus unit loan program are due by 5 p.m., Feb. 28, in the CARAG office.

The $50,000 business-improvement loan will offer matching grants of up to $5,000 to any commercially zoned for-profit business, said Engel.

"We want to help small business in the neighborhood," he said. "CARAG is somewhat unique in the city because we have business on the interior and exterior of our neighborhood. We like having those services that are easy to walk to. We want to help those businesses with their visibility, with exterior improvements like signage, awnings, roofs and windows -- things that help make these businesses more competitive."

Businesses south of 31st St. will be given priority, Engel added, so fewer of the nationally-owned shops like Car-X or Super America eat up the grant money.

Applications for the business improvement grant are due by 4 p.m., Mar. 22, in the CARAG office.

If you have any questions about either program, you can call Engel at the CARAG office, 823-2520.