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Rosemary Sauer got new energy-efficient windows and major repairs to her Hamilton Street home courtesy of a government repair program provided through the Jackson County Housing Authority. In the background is Jeff Jackson, repair specialist with the housing authority. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Lending a Hand

When Medford's Rosemary Sauer fell through the bedroom floor, she knew it was past time to get help with repairs on her dilapidated Hamilton Street home.

"I was scared," Sauer said. "It was terrible."

But Sauer's lack of financial resources dictated the retired caregiver remain living in unsafe conditions. Her moldy, foundationless home continued to decay around her, she said.

"The bathtub was sitting on the ground," she said. "But I didn't have a prayer, with my finances, that it would be fixed."

Then, a few months ago, Sauer, 64, went to the beauty shop and returned home with more than a new hairdo.

"I was at the beauty parlor and I saw men were putting new windows in," she said.

The energy-efficient windows came courtesy of a government repair program provided through the Jackson County Housing Authority, Sauer was told.

She contacted the agency and asked whether she qualified for the program. Her 575-square-foot home was falling down about her.

But she had no mortgage on the place, her taxes were up to date and she had insurance, Sauer said.

Sauer qualified, said Jeff Jackson, repair specialist with Jackson County Housing Authority.

Funding for repairs to homes such as Sauer's comes via federal community development block grant money.

The program is designed to help homeowners repair, renovate or refurbish their properties, from repainting to making homes more energy-efficient or handicapped-accessible to making emergency repairs such as those Sauer needed.

The zero-interest loans can be as much as $25,000, and are provided to qualified applicants who make 80 percent or less of the median area income, Jackson said.

Homes need not be paid for in full. But owners must have enough equity left on their property to support the loans. There is no repayment required until the note comes due upon sale of the house, he said.

"We are currently taking applications," said Jackson. "We use the repaid loans to made additional loans."

About two months ago Sauer moved into a camp trailer at her son's place and crews started working on her west Medford home. The back of the house was completely removed. A cement foundation was created, then the crews framed in the walls for a new bedroom/laundry room and a bathroom, Sauer said.

"The bathroom alone is a miracle," she said.

During the renovation, a construction worker pulled a couple of rotted boards from under the home that were stamped "Property of U.S. Army," Sauer said.

The city inspector told Sauer her house was moved onto the property in 1950, and likely came from Camp White, she said.

"There are a lot of Camp White homes all across the valley," Jackson said.

Jackson said Sauer's home was in urgent need of attention, and was moved up the waiting list. If someone just needs paint or windows, the person will fall behind an applicant such as Sauer who was literally falling through her floors, he said.

"Otherwise it's first come, first served," Jackson added. "We know the need is out there."

Jackson said there are similar programs, funded by the state, available for those living in Josephine and Jackson counties — outside Medford, Gold Hill and Phoenix city limits. But there are longer waiting lists and the programs are currently unfunded, he said.

"We just applied for money from the state," Jackson said.

Sauer can't wait to get out of her son's trailer, get her boxes out of his garage, and get back into her newly repaired home. And she is grateful that having the work done doesn't mean she'll be saddled with mortgage payments on her meager income, she added.

"When the house sells or when I pass away, they'll take that (loan amount) right off the top," Sauer said. "Isn't that something? I am just so blessed."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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