Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A couple days ago, I got a note in my e-mail from Sonia Sunshine telling me she was going to sponsor a "whinefest" at her blog today. Anyone who had something they'd like to complain about was welcome to come by her place and register their unhappiness with "whatever" in her comments section today. This sounded like a good deal to me so I'll take her up on that offer. She also did up this neat little badge -taken from my favorite book and movie -"Gone With The Wind" -with Rhett Butler beginning his famous line "Frankly, Scarlett" (and I believe it ends with "I don't give a damn" too, doesn't it?
I decided to use this badge to announce I'm gonna do a rant, throw a small hissy fit, about something that happened to me a long, long time ago but the issues with this event still really bug the living daylights out of me because it has to do with what, in my perception, is lunacy on the part of our wonderful government and the administration of some of their programs.
Twenty-nine years ago this coming December, my kids and I moved into this house -my family homestead, my mother's home, built in 1903 by my Grandparents. While the house had many good points too it -solid construction, some upgrades had been done (not a whole lot, but some) over the years, but it was fine for me, for the kids and it was "home" in the truest sense of the word. I was comfortable living here because it held for me many, many wonderful memories of people who had been such a large part of my life, no longer with me in person, but their essence was still here in this house, which in turn then made it "home" for me.
The place, when we moved in here needed a few things right away - improvements to the wiring, more outlets in the kitchen, living room, bedrooms -for openers. Other things that I wanted to do in the house though were off-limits to me because of my limited income.
However, back in the spring of 1987, my ex-brother-in-law told me about two programs that he felt I should apply to for help in getting some needed repairs to the house done. One was a program through Community Action in which you could get $5,000 to cover repairs whether they were considered to be health/safety in nature of strictly cosmetic. The other program is on administered through the FHA -the Farm Home Administration Loan for Low Income/First-Time Home Buyers Program and through it you could recieve a larger amount of money via a mortgage.
So, since I needed lots of things done -a new roof over the kitchen and sunporch, cupboards in the kitchen that had been damaged due to the leaky roof, countertop in the kitchen that was of the old-fashioned linoleum variety with the stanless steel band type edging which was word, and kind of "slivery" along with various and sundrie other things, I contacted the FHA to get information about this program and securing a loan through them.
The rep I spoke to told me yes, indeed, this program existed, there was lots and lots of funding available and approval could take place within a matter of a mere 3-4 days, a week at the utmost. I said bring the papers on and let me get started! All the while though I was in a bit of a state of shock thinking that the government must have made some great changes, streamlining, ya know, if they could take applications for a program of this magnitude and have it approved, ready to roll with it, in a week or less!
That was one of the first things I learned where the government employees lied to me as the week they had told me this could be done in stretched out until late summer of 1988 before everything was finally approved and after that, it was November before the contractor could get started because he had committed to other clients in the meantime. I mean gee, you couldn't expect him to not take on other jobs because he was waiting on the government to approve my puny little application now, could ya? Well, I sure couldn't blame him!
Anyway, back to my issues with the FHA.
I was told that my house had to meet certain specifications to be approved for this loan -for a family of four (which mine was -me, three kids -animals didn't count) the home could not exceed 1,300 square foot. I was applying for a loan of their maximum variety - $10,000 to be repaid over a 30-year period at an interest rate of 1 percent per year. Yes, the percent quoted there is correct and don't we all wish we could get any kind of loan today with only a 1 percent per year now too?
My first problem came about when the house was measured and it seems this house contains 1,360 square footage which made me ineligible for the $10,000 loan but I could still apply for a loan of $7,500 at 3 percent interest per year. However ALL things that could be covered in this smaller loan HAD to be, no ifs, ands or buts, strictly health and safety oriented. Therefore, certain things I wanted to have done would not, could not, be included in this loan.
The contractor I had selected had given me a bid of what all he could/would remodel, rebuild, fix for the grand sum of $10,000 but since my house, being so much larger than the 1,300 square foot allowed (I asked the govt. rep. which closet maybe I should try to get rid of in order to qualify for the larger loan but he didn't seem to comprehend what I was grousing about there.) I had been told I would have to get a private loan for the $2,500 needed to get all the things done that I had requested. My contractor redrew his bid so that the money he needed would appear to cover more of the "health/safety" items that were on my list and after the third re-drawing of his bid, it was approved. I still had to get a loan for $2,500 to cover all the things I felt were needed though.
The loan could be approved to cover a new roof over the sunporch, back porch and kitchen; it would cover new wall cupboards to replace the ones damaged by the leaking roof. It also would cover replacing the countertop with a nice, pretty butcher block counter. But, it would not cover replacement of the base cupboards because they had not been damaged by the leaky roof.
Keep in mind her folks that this is a loan that I was going to be repaying 100% plus interest -not a grant type thing in which I only repaid a portion of this money. But I was not going to be able to fund the new base cupboards through them.
The whole purpose of this loan was to repair the roof and some other things and also, to upgrade the value of the house too. Now how much added value do you think I would have if my kitchen contained nice new cupboards on the walls, very attractive counter top -and base cupboards that didn't match of the above items,
I asked the rep how the heck they could say this was something that would add value to my home with mismatched cupboards and such and by the way, who the hell are the idiots who made up these guidelines anyway?
His answer was simply "Well, they do!"
Ok, who are "they?" Well, first I was told these specifications were done up in the state's office of the FHA, so I called them asking to speak to whoever was in charge of these absurd requirements. But the Harrisburg office said no, it wasn't them who was in charge of drawing up these rules, it was the office in Washington, D.C. So, I called that main office number and no one could direct me to a person, or persons, who drew up these rules and regulations. Finally, I got someone there pinned down who identified who the "they" in this whole equation would be. It was none other than the U.S. Congress in its' collective body who approved these requirements.
So, in other words, some jackass in Washington sits and makes a determination that my family and i are not entitled to a home larger than 1,300 square footage -no allowances made for closet space, ya know and also, because I was so lucky to be working although the job paid for crapola -basically barely above minimum wage, then my family and I had to be relegated to having a kitchen with a new ceiling, new windows in the kitchen, new paneled walls, new wall cupboards and new countertop but we should just be satisfied with all that and make the best of having base cupboards that didn't match! Ludicrous, right?
Now, remember above I mentioned about the monies available through Community Action -the $5,000 you could get through them that could be used for anything you wanted -from sup to nuts, safety and health repairs or cosmetic, it made no difference, as they would all be approved. Initially, I was told by the secretary in the Community Action office that the way this program worked was you filled out an application with them, got it approved and then, that got your loan for the $5,000 automatically approved through a bank. Well, I knew darned well no bank was going to approve me, on my income, for a $5,000 loan, in addition to the $7,500 loan through FHA -plus, there was at that time a mere three-year waiting list to get said loans approved then too!
I later learned the information she gave me was incorrect though. You got approved to receive $5,000 -yes, that was true, but the amount of money that you, the individual borrowed from the bank was between $750 and $1,500 -and the rest of the money to make up the $5,000 was a grant, that didn't have to be repaid.
So here's two government programs, both good in theory, set up to help low-income people better the caliber and quality of their home but yet, one is still treating the applicant like a piece of trash, in a sense, in that they had the power to dictate what you could or could not do to your home with their money even though you would be paying it back at 100 percent plus interest while the other, which would be handing you between $3,500 and $4,250 free and clear -you would only have to pay back a very small percentage plus interest, would allow you to spend that money on whatever your pea-picking heart's desire might have been.
Now, I ask you - what in these two programs do you see as good? What in these two programs do you see as being fair -or perhaps more than a tad unfair too?
If you want to remodel a particular part of your home and you have a contractor's bid for the job -or you know what items you want to purchase and you happen to be handy enough doing carpenty, wiring, plumbing, etc., yourself -so you want a loan to cover the materials needed, is it fair then for the government to tell you what, exactly, you can or can't have in your home because after all, this loan is for somone who is proven to be a "Charity case" and therefore, doesn't deserve the same niceties in their home as do those who earn a much larger income and can afford to pay back their loans at a higher interest rate then too?
Although I wouldn't like it if someone or some agency were giving me $5,000 and they told me to get that money, I had to use certain items -whether they were a design or quality I wanted and liked or not, because the money was in essence a "gift" I could abide dealing on that basis -at least somewhat. But if I am going to borrow $7,500 or $10,000 -whatever -and pay it back completely plus interest on that money as well, then I sure as hell don't want the government telling me how big a house I can have and that I HAVE to live in a home that has been remodeled but only partially, because there is no need for your decor to all match if you are a "charity case" dealing with the government!
I managed to get what I wanted done -yes, but only because I had a contractor who knew how crappy the inside of the home would look if it was only half-way done and he didn't want his name associated with workmanship that didn;t reflect well so he worked with me every way he could to get the initial loan approved and I did manage then to get a "line of credit" loan through the bank to cover the items I needed but which the FHA classified as "cosmetic."
One other thing too about these programs and the way they are administered, I don't think I would have minded being put through all this stuff about what they could or could not approve for me if I had seen the same type of reaction from these same people who put these programs together with respect to how they furnish their offices in Washington, D.C. or state offices, with no regard whatsoever for how much they spend on things like hammers, commodes, office furniture, etc., etc.
Know what I mean?
That's my "Frankly, Scarlett -I don't give a damn!" rant for today!