Qualified Homeowners in Clifton Could Receive Up to $10,000 for Home Repairs


Did you know that Clifton has a program that could provide up to $10,000 in grant money to homeowners who meet the income requirements?

CHIP - Clifton Home Improvement Program, is a hybrid grant/loan program. Income-eligible applicants can apply and, if granted, the city will award you money - up to $10,000 - to make repairs to your home and will then place a lien on your property. If you stay in your home for six years after receiving the money, the lien will be removed and the loan then becomes a grant. Once converted to a grant, homeowners do not need to repay that money. If you sell your house before the six years are up, you would need to pay back the loan in order to have the lien removed.

Once an application is received in the Housing Department and the income requirements are verified, a housing inspector will come out to the property to determine what type of work is needed and if it qualifies for the program. After the project or projects are approved, the homeowner would be required to obtain three estimates from licensed contractors. The city will use the lowest estimate to determine how much money to award, up to $10,000.

Although it is a significant sum, $10,000 in 1975, when the program was first established, is not the same as $10,000 in 2023, and that money will not reach as far as it did decades ago. Councilman Joe Kolodziej said that Council should look into increasing this limit in order to provide qualified homeowners with the funds they need to complete common and costly repairs, like roof replacement.

In July 2020, City Council passed a resolution setting new income limits for this program based on the Uncapped Income Limits provided by the state’s HUD (Housing and Urban Development) department. Housing Director Brian Rodgers said that the application is available in Spanish, Polish, and Gujarati. These applications, along with an English version, are now available online.

You can also pick up an application for the CHIP in the Housing Department at City Hall, 900 Clifton Avenue. For more information, contact Brian Rodgers: 973-470-5848.

At the August 3rd Council meeting, concerned by the lack of participation in this important program, Councilwoman Rosemary Pino made a motion to direct Administration to contract with a translating business in order to facilitate the application process for Clifton homeowners who are eligible for this one-time grant for home improvements but whose native language is not English.

“The city currently puts aside $150,000 every year to fund the program but sadly due to the lack of advertising of the program [it] is currently underutilized. The city every year ends up with the same money they put aside for the program,” Pino said in a statement.

However, once homeowners fill out the application in their native language, the applications need to be translated back into English for processing, which creates a barrier to these families seeking to take advantage of the CHIP program. Pino’s motion was to contract with a company that would assist with the necessary translations.

Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula asked if the money to pay for this could come from the CHIP program itself through HUD and said that they should not discuss this further before determining the answer. City Manager Nick Villano responded, saying that Clifton typically gets only about 15 applications per year and not all of them require translation services. He also mentioned that those same applicants who need help would likely need additional help with the contract they sign when putting the lien on their property.

Councilman Tony Latona seconded Pino’s motion to contract with the translating company but said that he thinks those translations could be handled internally with existing employees at City Hall, many of whom are bilingual. Several other councilors commented that more information was needed and ultimately, the motion failed. “It is critical that Clifton is prepared to provide access to services for non-English speaking individuals,” Pino said in a statement, expressing her frustration and disappointment in her colleagues’ lack of support.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Villano confirmed with HUD that the city could contract with a translating service and that HUD would then reimburse the city for those fees. As this answered the big question of, “Who will pay for this” at the meeting, the next step would be for City Council to approve a contract with one such service.

The CHIP program is hugely beneficial to homeowners who are income eligible. Pino hopes that more residents will take advantage of it, enabling them to make the necessary improvements to their properties and providing the financial assistance that they require.

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