FARMINGTON – The dining room is Kristen Phelps’ favorite part of her new modular home.

The room with a table for meals and where she and her three children play games has quickly become the center of activity. “We come together as a family – it’s a favorite place,” she said Monday.

Phelps opened her new home on Osborne Road to show how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, Western Maine Community Action and MaineHousing helped her replace an 18-year-old mobile home with the new 28- by 56-foot modular home.

Phelps and her children, ages 10 to 14, moved into the four-bedroom home last month. The aging mobile home with a 72- by 14-foot living space meant her table was pushed against a wall and pulled out for meals, she said. The new space with a bedroom for each child offers almost double the space they lived in for the past 13 years.

On Monday, USDA Rural Development was celebrating National Homeownership Month by increasing awareness of programs to help Maine families acquire better homes.

Nearly 279 homes in an area served by the Lewiston USDA received assistance this past year with Rural Development funds, representing about $30 million, said Orman Whitcomb, area director for USDA Rural Development. Families were helped with direct buys of homes, or with rehabilitation or construction, but it couldn’t have been done without the help of partner organizations, Whitcomb said.

Phelps initially contacted Western Maine Community Action to request a loan to repair the trailer’s roof, said Diane Hayley, a loan specialist for the agency.

The home looked OK, but there was structural damage from the leaky roof. The walls of one bedroom collapsed from the damage when the roof was removed, Hayley said.

The process involves determining whether a home is worth repairing, she said.

In the spring of 2008, Phelps, a receptionist for the Maine Department of Human Services, learned of the CAP agency’s home replacement program. “When I attended a meeting on the program I thought there were other people there who needed it more than me,” Phelps said.

Hayley encouraged her to continue the process.

“I didn’t know how bad (the trailer) was ’til they tore it down,” Phelps added. “Now I’m just thankful for the whole process.”

The process included attending a housing class, looking at homes and floor plans, moving her family in with her parents over the winter and this spring putting a modular home with full basement on the site of the old mobile home.

For the assisting agencies, income and credit checks are done, as well as appraisals of the homes and property, Whitcomb said.

The program doesn’t give away homes, Hayley said. Phelps got a grant of about $14,000 through Western Maine Community Action and MaineHousing. The remainder of the nearly $150,000 was loaned with a low interest rate through USDA Rural Development, she said.

About five homeowners in the area have been helped through the replacement program over the past two years, she added.

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Orman Whitcomb from USDA Rural Development and Diane Hayley from Western Maine Community Action present a basket of seeds to Kristen Phelps Monday in celebration of her new modular home on Osborne Road in Farmington. Phelps replaced an aging mobile home through a home replacement program partnered by these agencies and MaineHousing.

Orman Whitcomb from USDA Rural Development and Diane Hayley from Western Maine Community Action present a basket of seeds to Kristen Phelps Monday in her new modular home on Osborne Road. Phelps replaced an aging mobile home through a home replacement program partnered by these agencies and MaineHousing.

Kristen Phelps and her children Courtney, in back, Devin and Erica opened their new modular home on Osborne Road in Farmington Monday in celebration of the agencies that helped Phelps acquire the home through a home replacement program.


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