Homeowners seeking escape from the house-penetrating cold of the past week should soon be able to turn to their local governments or utilities for some long awaited relief. However, the assistance, to come from the federal Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank, probably will not become available until some time in the spring or later.
Despite the bank's name, none of the area's three governments asked for assistance with solar energy. All loans for this region will be for insulating, weather stripping and the like, though elsewhere money may go for solar options.
Residents of the three local jurisdictions will receive a total of $2.4 million funneled by the new lending authority of Department of Housing and Urban Development through area governments. Overwhelmed by requests from all the states, the capital and U.S. territories asking for more than several times the amount available for the current fiscal year, HUD is distributing the money according to the quality of proposals. Virginia, the District and Maryland all ranked high.
Virginia's program, described by bank official Carlos Montalvo as one of only four or five that were "outstanding," will get $1,350,000, about half what was requested. It will make available subsidized loans primarily to the owners of one to four family houses who earn less than 80 percent of the median income for their respective counties. HUD money will be passed through the state's Housing and Development Authority to lower loan interest rates, perhaps to zero.
Particularly appealing to the HUD officials is the experience the state has had in administering previous programs. The federal money will be added to a loan pool collected from taxable bonds. State officials say that if the Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank proves to be a success, the program could be continued without federal participation through tax exempt bonds, if necessary. Bank rules prohibit the use of this source for the federal program.
The District was awarded $250,000, only about 7 percent of its request, for two programs. Loans would be available from private lenders, making use of federal money and funds from taxable bonds. Reductions in principal or interest would be offered. Separately, direct matching grants would be issued, drawing from a pool of federal and city monies. To get any help, Washingtonians will first have to get an energy audit of their houses from the electric or gas utilities.
Maryland, too, will offer both loans, accessible to homeowners from private lenders or utilities, and grants, administered by the state government. Marylanders will be competing for the $830,000 to be sent to Annapolis, about a fifth of its requested amount. HUD rated the plans submitted by Maryland and the District as "highly satisfactory."
The amount of loan subsidy available will vary according to the income bracket of the recipient. There also is a ceiling on the amount of the purchase that can be financed by the bank. For single family dwellings: Applicants earning less than 80 percent of the local median income can receive subsidies of up to $1,250 or 50 percent of the purchase price, whichever is less. For those with incomes in the 80 to 100 percent range, the figures are $875 and 35 percent; 100 to 120 percent range, $750 and 30 percent; and 120 to 150 percent, $500 and 20 percent.
For two family dwellings, the numbers are: Under 80 percent, $2,000; 80 to 100 percent, $1,400; 100 to 120 percent, $1,200; and 120 to 150 percent, $800 total per building. (The ceiling on the percentage of the price tag of an item that can be supported by a loan subsidy remains the same).
For three family dwellings, the limits are: Under 80 percent, $2,700; 80 to 100 percent, $1,925; 100 to 120 percent, $1,650; and 120 to 150 percent, $1,100. And for four family dwellings: Under 80 percent, $3,500; 80 to 100 percent, $2,450; 100 to 120 percent, $2,100; and 120 to 150 percent, $1,440.
None of the local jurisdictions included multifamily dwellings in their programs. Meanwhile, only those persons whose incomes are below 80 percent of the local median are eligible to receive the matching grants, generally considered the best subsidy. For this, a recipient must personally put up or find conventional financing for half of the expenditure.
Almost all the states and territories submitting proposals received something. The Virgin Islands and the U.S. Trust Territories in the Western Pacific were turned down, and no proposals were submitted by Hawaii, South Dakota, Guam or American Samoa. But the money was apportioned even more disparately among the 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Mariana Islands that are in the program.
New York received the largest share, almost $2.2 million, while a handful of jurisdictions including West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi and the Marianas, will get only $100,000 each. Montalvo explained that the allocation was based on the amount requested, in some cases only a few $100,000, and on the quality of the requestors' plans. Perhaps a dozen plans were "minimally acceptable," he said.
Only $30.4 million has been allocated so far, bank officials explain, because Office of Management and Budget has released money from only the first two quarters of the fiscal year. They say that the remaining half of the fiscal 1983 appropriation, actually equal to a little over $11 million more, is expected to be awarded to those states that do the best job in running their programs.
But when that will come is not certain. And neither is the actual release of money. HUD must first publish its regulations for operating the loans and grants. And that's where the delay is.
The first sat of regulations was released to Congress, as required by the law establishing the bank, and the Housing Committee of the House of Representatives promptly fired off an angry letter to Secretary Samuel Pierce asking for changes to allow the money to be sent directly to cities or urban counties, and to allow bank money to mix with tax exempt bond funds. As provided by law, the committee prevented HUD from publishing the regulations until a 15-session-day period passed.
Although that is over, HUD delcined to publish the disputed rules because the committee was sure to refuse to waive a 30-session day delay for them to be put into effect. Rather than rile the Congress, HUD is preparing a response outlining areas of continued disagreement. Even if the rules are published and the 30-session days pass, Congress can still legislate delays or the changes it wants, and HUD is hoping to avoid that.