There's free money for home improvements, if you qualify for home improvement grants.

If you want to remodel your home, there may be a government agency or private organization willing to help you. Home improvement grants are funds given to eligible recipients to make needed repairs, improve their home’s energy efficiency or adapt a house for a disabled person. Most of these programs are limited to applicants with low or very low incomes. However, there are also grants for homeowners in redevelopment areas, for the restoration of historic properties or for emergencies, like a broken furnace requiring repair during a cold winter. To learn more, check out some of the most widely used programs:

Rural housing grants and loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Rural Development offers both grants and loans in their Section 504 Home Repair program. The loan program is for rural homeowners with incomes less than 50 percent of their area median income. The maximum loan amount is $20,000 with an interest rate of 1 percent, and borrowers have up to 20 years to repay it.

Homeowners who are 62 or older can apply for grants up to $7,500 to fix health and safety hazards in their houses. In addition, grants and loans can be combined for a total of $27,500 in assistance. You can apply for this program with any USDA loan specialist in your area.

Grants for veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers four grant programs to veterans with service-related disabilities.

  • The VA’s Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant provides a maximum of $73,768 to buy, build or remodel a home to help disabled vets live independently. Funds can also be used to pay down the mortgage balance on a previously acquired home with adaptive features.
  • The Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant helps eligible veterans adapt homes to accommodate their disabilities and increase their mobility. The maximum grant under this program is $14,754. The main difference between the two grants (in addition to their limits) is the types of disabilities qualifying for assistance.
  • The Temporary Residence Assistance (TRA) grant can benefit disabled veterans who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member.
  • A Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant helps pay for home improvements necessary for the veteran’s ongoing treatment or for disability access to the home.

You can apply for these programs online at www.ebenefits.va.gov.

Grants for disabled and elderly homeowners

There are many programs providing grants to disabled or elderly homeowners to repair or adapt their homes. The U.S. government lists these programs at www.disability.gov.

In most cases, benefits are earmarked for disabled homeowners or those at least 62 years old with low or very low incomes. For example, North Carolina’s Single-Family Rehabilitation (SFR) program provides funds to seniors or disabled homeowners with income less than 80 percent of the area median income. The loans are interest-free, and $3,000 of the loan balance is forgiven every year. When the home is sold, any remaining balance is repaid.

Similarly, North Carolina’s Urgent Repair Program (URP) provides elderly and disabled homeowners whose income is less than 50 percent of the area median income with funds to “correct housing conditions that threaten your life or safety, such as failing septic systems, dangerous heating systems or rotten floors.”

To find these programs, people 60 or older should check with their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) about qualifying for home modification and repair funds.

Grants for Native Americans

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) division of the U.S. Department of the Interior administers the Housing Improvement Program (HIP) to provide grants for repair, renovation or replacement of old housing. To be eligible, you must be a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe or an Alaska Native. You must also live in an approved tribal service area, and your income can’t exceed 150 percent of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Poverty Guidelines. Your current housing must be substandard, as well.

HIP supplies up to $7,500 to correct conditions that threaten the health or safety of the occupants. Those with homes not in compliance with building codes can receive up to $60,000 for renovations to correct bad living conditions.

Alternatives to home improvement grants

While relatively few homeowners meet the guidelines for home improvement grants, alternatives may achieve the same goals. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP): Offered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), WAP provides grants to state agencies to help low income residents improve their home’s efficiency and lower their energy expense.
  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): The PACE program allows homeowners to make certain energy-efficient improvements and pay for them over time with their property taxes. If they sell the property before the improvements have been paid for, the loan balance attaches to the new buyer. The homeowner can use the money saved by the improvements to pay for them over time instead of paying up front.
  • Single-purpose reverse mortgages: These are reverse mortgages with low or no interest, offered by state or local governments and charitable organizations. Eligible homeowners must be 62 or older and have low or very low incomes. The loan proceeds must be used for home repairs, qualifying renovations or payment of property taxes.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s 203(k) Rehab Mortgage: This program allows homeowners to borrow up to $35,000 to renovate or repair their homes. There is no income limit, and many projects are allowed.

While plenty of programs are available, finding them can be a challenge. For housing-related programs of all types, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s state pages, which link to programs in every state.

If you’re looking to add value to your property, check to see if you qualify for any of these available loans and start improving your home today.