Coon Rapids offers grants for home remodels

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2013 - 12:54 PM

To entice families to stay, the city is offering up to $5,000 to homeowners undertaking a large-scale remodel costing $35,000 or more.

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A renovated kitchen in their Coon Rapids home offers plenty of room for the Bennetts: (from left) Jada, Steve, Bella, Jess and Blake.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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The boxy little rambler and its more spacious neighbor, the split-level, were the height of suburban splendor when Coon Rapids experienced its building boom a half-century ago. About half the city’s homes were built before 1980, and those are two of the most common styles.

Today, midcentury homes can feel more outmoded than modern.

The answer isn’t to move to newer suburbs, Coon Rapids officials contend.

Instead, consider a remodel.

To entice families to stay, the city is offering up to $5,000 to homeowners undertaking a large-scale remodel costing $35,000 or more. It’s also offering a free two-hour consultation with an architect and affordable financing. Homeowners planning more modest remodels still can qualify for low-interest loans.

The offerings are the city’s latest effort to revitalize its housing stock — Phase II of its Home For Generations program.

“We do want to keep families here,” said Coon Rapids neighborhood coordinator Kristin DeGrande. “Housing values are starting to come back. People are becoming more confident, and we want them to invest in their homes.”

The Home for Generations program is breaking new ground because the city is offering grants — free money — to qualified homeowners, and there are no income requirements, city staffers say.

Phase I, in which the city bought, remodeled and showcased five older homes to spur remodels, proved so successful that it was featured at the National League of Cities conference and is a contender for a Harvard University Innovations in American Government award.

There have been nearly 100 remodels within a half-mile radius of the model homes.

Tough sell

Convincing residents to stay put can be a tough sell, especially when older homes go toe-to-toe with new construction in neighboring suburbs such as Andover and Blaine. Limited square footage is often the biggest hurdle for growing families to overcome.

“We don’t have much opportunity for move-up housing,” acknowledges Cheryl Bennett, the city’s housing and zoning coordinator.

But some Coon Rapids homeowners are thinking outside the box — building additions, reconfiguring existing space and finishing basements to make their homes feel more spacious and modern.

Overall, the city has seen an increase in building permits, which includes remodeling projects, over the past several years: from 5,394 in 2007 to 6,879 in 2012.

In part, that’s a sign that homeowners — sold on the perks of their established neighborhoods, including large lawns, canopies of established trees and connections with longtime neighbors — are investing in their homes, city staff say.

“Generally speaking, it’s a lot more affordable to invest in your existing home and make it what you want it to be,” DeGrande said.

The housing market crash, which left many homeowners owing more than their homes were worth, could also be fueling this new fix-it mentality.

  • Are you eligible?

    To qualify for remodeling grants under Phase II of Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations program:

    • A home must be 20 years or older

    • It must be owner-occupied.

    • The remodel must be $35,000 or more. Homeowners can recoup up to 10 percent of the total renovation cost, not to exceed $5,000.

    • The project must include substantial work such as remodeling a kitchen or bath, tearing down walls to reconfigure layout, adding on or finishing a basement.

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