Grant used for flood-recovery homebuilding

Money going toward four new homes and three home renovations, and financial counseling for new homeowners

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A national charitable effort by Wells Fargo Bank has added some private-sector money to the effort to replace more than 1,000 residential units lost in the 2008 flood.

Thanks in part to that effort, Jenny Barnett, a 32-year-old single mother of a 4-year-old daughter named Ella, moved into a new home Friday in the Harrison Elementary School neighborhood in northwest Cedar Rapids.

The staff of the Affordable Housing Network Inc., one of the flood-recovery groups to which Wells Fargo steered its donation, moved Barnett and her daughter from her Hiawatha apartment to the new home in an hour. Local Wells Fargo employees put landscaping in the yard earlier in the week.

“The blessings just keep coming,” Barnett said. She said she never imagined she would be able to move from an apartment to a new home.

Aside from Affordable Housing Network Inc., Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, the Neighborhood Development Corp. and Matthew 25 received a portion of Wells Fargo’s $100,000 housing grant. The money is going toward four new homes and three home renovations, and financial counseling for the new homeowners.

The city of Cedar Rapids is providing lots for the four new homes — lots that once held flood-damaged houses.

Joe Lock, executive director of the Affordable Housing Network Inc., said the local agencies had competed against entities in Chicago and the Quad Cities for the Wells Fargo grant.

He and Barnett both made it clear that getting Barnett into a new house represented years of hard work on her part.

Barnett, a training coordinator at the Horizons family services agency in Cedar Rapids, said she spent six years working with a financial counselor in the Horizons’ agency to get her personal finances in order.

Barnett’s monthly mortgage payment at 3.5 percent annual interest will be just a bit more than the $515 monthly rent she had been paying for the Hiawatha apartment. She has dropped cable TV service to cut her monthly expenses and said she also will save money by having her own washer and dryer.

The city is concentrating much of its latest round of flood-recovery home building in the blocks in and around Barnett’s new home.

“There’s so many new houses and so many different things going on to build up this part of town, and that’s exciting to me,” Barnett said. “I think it’s part of something bigger. It’s going to be more like that neighborly feel, and people are going to care about their houses, care about living here.”

So far the federal government has provided $32 million to the city to provide incentives for the construction of 600 single-family homes. The city also has used local dollars to provide incentives — 25 percent of a new home’s cost for those qualified to meet affordable-housing income guidelines — on more than 30 flood-recovery homes.

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