WHITING | Homeowners who are looking to fix up the exterior of their properties might want to explore the city's Residential Facade Renovation Grant Program, which kicked off April 1.
"Basically, it's a matching grant," said Bob Kark, director of economic development. "The whole purpose of the thing is to enhance the streetscape and livability factor of the neighborhood."
The city will reimburse homeowners 50 percent of the cost of a qualified project, with a maximum reimbursement of $6,000.
Applications can be obtained at City Hall or at www.whitingindiana.com.
Siding, windows and porches are just some of the exterior items that could qualify to be addressed under the program.
The program does not limit residents to just the front of their homes, but rather to any part that can be viewed from the sidewalk.
In addition to making neighborhoods more aesthetically pleasing, the program also serves to increase the value of the housing stock in the city, Kark said.
More than $500,000 has been dedicated to the facade grant program in 2014.
Mayor Joe Stahura said this might be the last year the city will offer the program.
"As we move forward, it's going to be more and more difficult to allocate large sums of money for projects like this," he said.
Stahura said the city is funding the grant program in part with gaming money received from Lake County.
Stahura expects several hundred homeowners will take advantage of the program. He estimated that about 65 people already had submitted applications April 1.
"I think it's unusual for a municipality to return money back to the community, and this is our way of selfishly improving the community but also helping the property owners take their homes to a little nicer level," Stahura said.
Another grant program that Stahura said might continue into the future is the Senior Property Improvement Program, which also began April 1.
The senior program is for low-income individuals over 65 who need assistance with the maintenance of their properties.
The senior grant provides a maximum payout of $3,000, which the resident does not have to match.
"In order to be eligible for that, you have to have a senior exemption in your taxes filed with the county," Kark said.
Possible projects that could qualify under the senior program include roof repairs, plumbing, rewiring and work on mechanical systems.
Applications for the senior program also can obtained at City Hall or at the city's website.