Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Media: Program grants wished for home improvement projects in Suisun City

SUISUN CITY - With a son soon heading off to college, Ricky Alcantar is looking to save money any way he can.

Last spring, when his front 'lawn' at 821 Bluejay Drive was little more than dirt and weeds, Alcantar learned of a new grant program offered by the city.

An avocational landscaper himself, Alcantar had intended to replace not only the lawn, but also other front yard features.

Suisun City's new Neighborhood Reinvestment Program provided seed money to get him started.

Anyone in Suisun City in a household of two whose annual income is less than $72,400 can apply for a grant of as much as $2,500 to help pay for home improvements that range from gutter repair to painting, program director Alysa Majer said.

In Alcantar's case, he commutes to Martinez to his work and is the sole provider for his wife and two children. Because his income met eligibility requirements for a family of four, 80 percent of the cost of his new lawn was funded by the city. The total cost of Alcantar's new lawn was $1,300.

To apply for the grant, he submitted three bids. The city allowed him to choose the one with which he felt most comfortable, not the lowest. Then, when the work was done, the city inspected it and Alcantar submitted his receipt. Within three weeks, he was reimbursed all but $260.

In the household of two, for example, those with incomes up to $47,350 pay 20 percent of the cost of an approved home improvement project or projects, with the city's 80 percent contribution capped at $2,500. For those who have incomes between $47,350 and $72,400, the split is 50-50.

Couples or a single parent raising one child are examples of a 'household of two,' Majer said.

Income-eligible landlords can also take advantage of the grant, Majer said, because awards are based on the income of whoever owns the property.

To date, one such grant has been awarded, said Majer, adding that the money can only be used to fix up the facade, or exterior, of a property to improve its 'curb appeal.'

'Cleaning up' neighborhoods was what prompted the city's Redevelopment Agency to take the grant proposal to the City Council in June 2007, Majer said. The first grant, Alcantar's, was awarded in July.

On the same day he received his 'approved' e-mail, work began. Weeds were ripped out, ground was rototilled and the in-ground sprinkler system was realigned.

This past summer, when all his neighbors' lawns were brown, Alcantar said his was lush and green. It looked so good, in fact, his next-door neighbor applied for and received a grant to help put in a new lawn and landscape rock.

Majer said that's just what planners hope will happen across Suisun City. 'A domino effect,' she said. To date, 22 homeowners in the city have been awarded Neighborhood Reinvestment grants.

Alcantar plans to apply again when he's ready to repair wood shingle siding on his home. Each homeowner can keep receiving grants until he or she has reached the $2,500 cap. In Alcantar's case, he still has almost $1,500 in the 'bank.'

When he told co-workers how he paid for his new front yard, he said they responded, ''What?! You have what in your city? I would love to take advantage of that!''

Majer said the program still has $57,000 ready to be awarded as 'incentive' money to 'clean up the neighborhoods by investing in the homes.'

'For me, it's been a blessing,' Alcantar said.

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

Suisun City Neighborhood Reinvestment Program

To learn more about applying for a Suisun City Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grant, call Alysa Majer at 421-7345

1 comment:

compjohn said...

I work for a small home improvement company and I thought I'd share what we do in the hopes of helping people fulfill their goal of improving their home. We sell wood, aluminum and vinyl replacement windows and doors from makers such as Milgard, International, CertainTeed, Jeld-Wen, Andersen and others. We also feature Velux skylights and roof windows. Check us out online today at Thank you!