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Hennepin County loan program helps make homes more accessible

When Kris Anderson and her husband George moved into their Richfield rambler, they decided to update one of their bathrooms to make it more accessible and easier for them to age in place.

Both of their bathrooms had full bathtubs and they needed a step-in shower with grab bars that would be easier to use. Kris and George were recovering from surgeries and cancer treatments when they decided to pursue the renovation project.

The Andersons learned about Hennepin County’s loans for home repairs at a City of Richfield event and decided to pursue the application process. Hennepin County offers loans up to $30,000 for home repairs and maintenance. To qualify, households must meet income limits -- $68,500 for one person and up to $129,100 for a family of eight. The loans have zero percent interest, no monthly payments and are forgiven if you continue to live in and own the house and don’t transfer the title.

women standing outside her home

Kris Anderson outside her Richfield home.

Eligible repairs include plumbing, electrical work, painting, windows, doors, siding, roof replacement, accessibility improvements, flooring and other repairs addressing health, safety, and maintenance concerns. These home improvement projects facilitated by the county help people stay in their homes and make their environments safer and healthier.

Navigating the paperwork

Once they met the eligibility requirements for the loan, the Andersons were connected with Hennepin County Project Manager Dale Cooney. He went over the loan paperwork with the couple and also did risk assessments for lead and radon before the bathroom renovation began. The home did not have lead paint, but it was on the borderline for radon, so the Andersons moved ahead with radon mitigation work, as well.

Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless and invisible gas. It is harmless when dispersed in outdoor air but can be harmful when trapped in buildings – especially at elevated levels.

Kris Anderson said Cooney was helpful navigating the process and the paperwork necessary to get moving on the renovation project. “Dale was just marvelous. He helped us understand the rules,” she said.

Cooney serves as one of the project managers for the county’s home repair loan program. Households work with their project manager to choose their scope of work and select a contractor. The project manager facilitates the process to make sure it meets program requirements.

Anderson already had a vision for what she wanted done with the bathroom and collected contractor bids before she started meeting with Cooney.

“It made my job very easy. She knew exactly what she wanted to do,” Cooney said. “It’s very satisfying to help people take that next step and do something that they are really hoping to get done in their home.”

Before and after

The renovation project transformed the bathroom into a more spacious area with a walk-in shower with grab-bars and a wall-mounted toilet to free up more space, making it much easier for the couple to navigate.

“We moved into this house as our retirement home. As we added railings and talked about modifications to our home, friends would say, ‘well I don’t need that.’” Anderson said. “We all hope and believe we won’t. Our needs change more quickly than we anticipate. The loan made it possible for us to stay in our home as George’s health changed. We were prepared.”

before and after bathroom
(Left) The original bathroom. (Right) The renovated bathroom with a new accessible shower.

Visit Hennepin County’s website to learn more about the home repair loan program and eligibility requirements.