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HARVARD — It bills itself as the “the Best Deal in Harvard.”

It’s a program that assists Harvard’s low- and moderate-income residents in making improvements to their homes.

Harvard’s eligible households could receive a grant of as much as $35,000 to make improvements to their homes, said Shelly Hatch, community development director of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC).

The federal grant a household can receive is a payment- and interest-free loan based on a 15-year forgiveness schedule, Hatch said at a meeting with about 20 Council On Aging members.

MRPC’s application for the 2008 grant program, if approved, could bring a pool of $250,000 for Harvard’s applicants, she said.

“The program’s designed to help people stay in their homes,” she said. “Grant recipients wouldn’t have to pay the money back unless their homes were sold or their titles were transferred to somebody else.”

She added that while a lien on the property would be registered with the county for the 15-year term of the grant, there would be absolutely no repayment obligation unless ownership of the home changed.

During that 15-year period, grant recipients would also be free to refinance their mortgages or obtain a reverse mortgage, but they wouldn’t be able to pull equity out of their properties.

According to Hatch, eligibility requires that the house be located in Harvard and the household meet size and income requirements, said Hatch.

For example, a household of one person must have an annual income between $32,850 and $46,300.

A household comprising eight people must have an income between $61,950 and $87,350.

Grants could be used to finance such improvements as chimney and foundation repairs, lead paint and asbestos removal, roof repairs or replacements, and septic-system repairs or replacements, said Hatch.

MRPC would handle the administrative tasks in processing applications for the grants and determining the scope of rehabilitation work to be done on recipients’ homes, developing contracts and obtaining the services of local contractors the program typically uses, she noted.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has yet to appropriate the money for this year’s regional grants, said Hatch.

“We’re applying for our grant in February for the towns of Harvard, Lancaster, Shirley and Westminster,” she said. “We’ll should receive word from HUD through the state Department of Housing and Community Development in July, and the program would begin in September.”

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