AUGUSTA — A new program meant to help apartment building owners who could use some financial help rehabilitating and addressing code problems in their rental properties is the focus of an Augusta Housing Authority presentation Wednesday.

Officials plan to use $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money to try to improve the city’s deteriorating housing stock. They would do so by making grants available to private landlords in Augusta though the new Great Neighborhoods program, to help them rehabilitate and preserve existing multi-family rental housing.

For an apartment building to be eligible for assistance, it must be located in Augusta, it must have two to seven rental units, and at least 51 percent of its tenants must have household incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, as determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a household of two people, that would be less than about $38,000 in income a year.

The city was awarded the housing assistance program grant by the state Department of Economic and Community Development last year, and the program will be administered by the quasi-municipal Augusta Housing Authority.

Since 2013, Augusta has experienced an epidemic of lost rental units, according to a news release from Amanda Bartlett, executive director of the local housing authority. Housing authority and city records indicate close to 500 rental units have been lost or are at imminent risk of being lost because of fire or serious life-safety code violations. Bartlett said that loss of units, and a lack of a corresponding replenishment of the housing stock, has resulted in a severe shortage of suitable rental housing for low- to moderate-income people.

An informational meeting about the Great Neighborhoods program is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the community room at Lithgow Public Library. Applications for the program will be available at the meeting.

The grants would require landlords also to put their own money into their buildings to be eligible, at least 10 percent of the total project cost. Bartlett said projects addressing safety code problems would get priority, but other capital improvement projects to buildings also would be considered for the grants.

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