Jeff council okays down payment assistance program

The Jefferson city council opened its regular meeting Nov. 27 with a public hearing on amending the city’s urban renewal plan to expand the area in which building improvement incentives can be made. The amendment allows incentives to be provided for buildings in the entire district, not just the downtown district.

There were no comments from the public and no written comments were received. The council approved the required resolution.

Under the next agenda item, Andy Harland, doing business as Sky Blue Properties LLC, became the first building owner to take advantage of the incentive. The council approved a $75,000 loan forgivable over 10 years for work on the former Shopko building. Don’s Ace Hardware will open at that location in early May. The name will be changed to Jefferson Ace Hardware. (See related story.)

In other business, the council approved support for a Region XII Council of Governments application from the city for the Iowa Finance Authority’s down payment assistance program. Karla Janning talked with the council about the program.

In 2015 the council approved participating in the down payment program with $2,500 assistance for five home buyers. Janning explained that after she identified the five home buyers, the Iowa Finance Authority changed the underwriting process and only one home buyer qualified.

The IFA has now changed underwriting back to what it was previously. The council approved offering up to $5,625 available in down payment assistance to four home buyers, for a total of $22,500. The city has $40,000 in its budget for low to moderate income (LMI) housing efforts.

The program is available to first time homebuyers, veterans, or displaced homemakers. The funds can be used toward a down payment on a new home or one needing little work, or toward rehab on an older, less expensive home. Participants must be credit-worthy and secure a mortgage through a lender, and they must meet income guidelines.

The council also approved a street-level art project coordinated by Main Street’s Tower View Team. Four 7-foot tall replica bell towers will be placed around the downtown square, each one painted b a different artist. The project will be similar to the painted pigs on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and the Cy statues in Ames.

The “mini bells of Jefferson” will be constructed of outdoor plywood and aluminum. They’ll be completed and on display for the 2019 Bell Tower Festival and remain on display for a year.

The project is being paid for by Jefferson Matters: Main Street.
Under the consent agenda the council approved an application from Main Street for $900 from the hotel/motel tax fund. The money will go toward renewing the license on the Jefferson, IA app.

Jefferson Matters: Main Street gave its quarterly update, this time as a video. The video features Jeff (Lamoureux) from Jefferson interviewing several Main Street volunteers. Main Street’s investor drive is underway, with a goal of increasing financial support by 20 percent. The city now contributes $15,000 per year to Main Street.

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