MUSKOKA - The District of Muskoka is moving into its second year of allocating provincial funding for home renovations.
During a community services meeting on Feb. 20, Heather Moore, director of programs for the district, said the district had to turn down a number of grant applications for renovations this fiscal year.
“I am more certain than I ever imagined that I would be that there is a huge need for the home renovation grant in Muskoka,” Moore said.
The money is available to low-income homeowners who need repairs or landlords who need to increase accessibility for current tenants. Some of the money is distributed through the Home Ownership Grant.
According to a report in the meeting agenda, there have been 32 applications to date. With a 2012/2013 budget of $67,839, many of those applications were not funded.
The district had notionally subscribed all the Home Ownership grants, but because of the time of year and time constraints they were unsure they’d be able to get six of the grants completed before the province’s March 31 deadline. If the money is not granted, the province will take the funds from Muskoka and reallocate them to another service manager.
The district moved the funds from the Home Ownership program to the Ontario Renovates program to address some of the unfulfilled applications.
“We were pleased in that we had a large number of unmet grant applications for Ontario Renovates, and in particular that we were able to revisit to accessibility grant applications that we’d received that we had to say no to in the first place because they’d come in quite a ways down the list,” Moore said.
The district set aside $93,361 for the upcoming 2013/2014 year. Moore is hoping council will approve earmarking $17,500 to meet five requests for accessibility needs.
“They would be set aside at least until October and we could see what the uptake is like at that point,” she said.
Accessibility grants are often more pressing than renovations and cannot wait for several months like poor windows or doors, Moore said. The need may not present itself until the grants are already allocated.
“Also the people who are possibly the least able to get busy and get out and get all the information together that they need for the grants, they’re disadvantaged by a first come, first serve design of the program,” she said.
At that time if the grants are not needed, the district will consider moving them to the renovation program.
“I really can’t understate how high the province’s expectations are on service managers to fully expend their funding envelope and they’re very prepared to step in and reallocate any unused money to other service manager areas,” she said.
The program will be opened shortly after April 1 to allow people to take advantage of the summer and fall building season.