Housing money sought; survey responses urged

Jeff Gladis

By Seth Schmidt

“Free” government grant money might become available to help qualified Tracy homeowners fix up their houses.

But there’s a catch.  Large numbers of local residents must fill out and return a survey to give Tracy a chance at qualifying for the pot of money.

“I think we’ve got a good shot at it,” Jeff Gladis, a program administrator for United Community Action, told the Tracy City Council Monday.  However, Gladis said, those prospects will dwindle if the survey has a poor response.

The one-page survey is being mailed to 850 Tracy households this week.  The form asks property owners to list three areas that most need upgrading in their home, and indicate whether they are interested in housing improvements. Respondents must list their address and check a box that shows 2017 gross household income.

The confidential surveys can be returned using an addressed, postage-paid envelope included in this week’s mailing.  Surveys can also be returned in sealed envelopes to a drop-off box in the City office.  Either way, Gladis says that no one at Tracy Hall will look at the surveys. United Community Action staff in Marshall will process the surveys.

The Tracy Economic Development Authority and the City of Tracy plan to seek about $550,000 from the state’s Small Cities grant program.  Funds can be used to make repairs on single-family, owner-occupied houses. Roofing, foundations, siding, windows, doors, heating electrical, energy-efficiency upgrades and lead removal are among the eligible improvements.

A 20-25 block target area would be established for the Small Cities projects, based on the survey responses received.   With an average project cost of $21,600, a total of 25 houses would be improved.

The form being mailed to households this week shows a Sept. 17 deadline for returning the surveys.

“It’s a very simple form. It literally takes two minutes,” Gladis said.

While he hopes most people will return the form right away, he told the council all surveys received through the end of the month will be considered.

“I won’t be able to go through them until after Oct. 1,”  he said.

The first phase of Tracy’s Small Cities application with the Minnesota Dept. of Economic Development is due in November. Second phase finalists will be announced in February or March, with recipients announced in August or September of 2019.

“It is a long process,” Gladis said. “If everything goes as planned it would be a year and a half from tonight before we truly see something being done.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.