Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that applications are being accepted for grants to eligible applicants to help low- and very-low-income rural residents repair their homes.

“These funds help limited-income rural homeowners improve their living conditions,” Vilsack said in a news release. “The costs associated with maintaining a home are a challenge for many rural homeowners and the funding we are announcing will be used by awardees to help low and very-low-income residents in rural areas maintain and repair their homes.”

Housing Preservation Grants are provided to intermediaries such as town or county governments, public agencies, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and nonprofit and faith-based organizations. The grants are then distributed to qualified homeowners or owners of multi-family rental properties or cooperative dwellings who rent to low- and very-low-income residents. Funding is not provided directly to homeowners by USDA under this program.

The grants can be used to weatherize and repair existing structures, install or improve plumbing or provide access to people with disabilities. USDA may award up to $9.8 million in competitive grants through the Housing Preservation Grant program. Applications are due on Aug. 22. For more information about application details, please view the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) published in the July 7, 2011 Federal Register.

In 2010, USDA Rural Development provided a Housing Preservation Grant in the amount of $23,400 to Western Maine Community Action Program to fund housing rehabilitation and repair in Franklin County. The funds were used to address health and safety issues as well as energy conservation and were leveraged with funds from Western Maine Community Action’s Weatherization Program, Appliance Program, and Central Heating Improvement Program.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s website at rurdev.usda.gov/me.