Weather Forecast


No beef with housing program

Amy Squires had a dream of one day owning her own home.

The single mother of a 9-year-old made that dream a reality last January when she closed on the house at 801 Pine in Minong.

“I managed to do it by my 39th birthday, so I was very happy,” Squires said.

But she acknowledges she didn’t go it alone when she bought the home where her daughter now has a shed she can use as a playhouse all her own.

Squires had a little help from the agency best known for beef inspections.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Program gave Squires the bit of help she needed to make a dream a reality.

“It was unbelievable,” Squires said. “I would call all the time with questions; they would answer everything for me. It was awesome. That was the greatest part about it because I didn’t feel like I was doing this alone.”

The USDA has a variety of programs to help people become homeowners through its rural housing program.

For people with a moderate income — 120 percent of the county median wage — rural housing has a guaranteed loan program, said Dave Schwobe of Rural Housing. Through that program, home buyers go through the normal lending and buying process, and the bank submits the loan to one of six rural housing offices in the state, he said. In two to three business days, he said the bank will have an answer as to whether the federal government can guarantee the loan in the event of a default.

Knowing a bank will get 80 percent of the loan covered in the event of a default can make a difference, said Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development state director for Wisconsin.

Coming up with the down payment would have been impossible, Squires said.

Ever since the banking crisis, Gruszynski said, it’s been tougher for people who would qualify for a home loan with the ability to pay it back to overcome the hurdle of a down payment because lenders raised the bar from 10 to 20 percent, making it more difficult for low- to moderate-income people to get a loan.

Through the rural housing program, home buyers can pay significantly less than the 20 percent down, Schwobe said. While they may be required to cover closing costs and some fees, he said, it’s less costly than 20 percent of the cost of a home.

The USDA also offers programs that allow lower-income home buyers to get a loan directly through Rural Housing if their income falls at 80 percent or less than the median income of the county.

Homeowners also have the opportunity for loans and grants to help make health and safety improvements to their homes. Loans offer up to $20,000 at 1 percent interest, and people age 62 and older are eligible for grants up to $7,500.

If the home is sold within three years, it does have to be paid back, Schwobe said. After three years, there is no obligation with the grants, he said.

“It was fun,” Squires said. “I have my very first garden. I am so excited about that.”

And now she’s enjoying her own two bedroom house with a two-car garage, full basement and beautiful dining room, became a reality.

“The basement isn’t finished, but it will be,” Squires said.

“Buying a home or starting a business in rural communities can be difficult,” Gruszynski said. He said that’s why Rural Development is so important to small communities throughout Wisconsin. The programs contribute about $1 billion to local economies statewide, he said.

For information, contact  715-345-7620 or