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Council seeks to build handicap-friendly housing

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Athens City Council has been awarded $75,000 and is considering using a sum of the money to renovate a house so that it can meet handicap requirements.

Repairs and renovations were discussed earlier in the year for the city-owned house on 458 Richland Ave, just past the fire station, according to Member at Large Chris Knisely. In June, the council sought to secure a grant from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in order to repair the home. This grant is state operated and is designed to help smaller levels of government like the Athens City Council with city development and is designated through annual budget priorities.

The city purchased the house with plans to expand it into an annex for the Athens Fire Department station No. 2; however, such plans are no longer in existence. Mayor Tom Wiehl, in a city hearing in June, stated that the building used to be utilized to store records for the city, but is now vacant.

“The city will provide $6,510 in cost share,” Knisely said. “This will help with repairing the house and adjusting it to suit disabled persons. The goal for this home is to be rented to a low-to-moderate income family.”

Wiehl discussed the appropriations of the grant and where the subsequent moneys would be going.

“This money is money we receive every year, in varying amounts,” Wiehl said. “Part of it will go to the Fair Housing Program, and some will go to the administration. But the fair majority will go towards [the renovation] project.”

At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson mentioned that the Commission for Disabilities “had had their eye on this property” for quite some time. The group had planned on bringing this house up to “meet ADA code,” according to Patterson.

The commission works with city government to ensure that the city is indeed accessible and up to the Americans with Disabilities Act code, as Patterson said. He also mentioned that the house could possibly become a showcase home for the commission, even with the family living there.

Patterson also hopes that the house will be built with universal design, which is an all-encompassing idea that would fit to everyone’s needs, “from cradle to grave.”

“That means the house should be able to work for anyone from an eight-month old child to an 88 year old adult,” he said. “It’s a capture all idea, not just what we think of as ADA, someone with a life-limiting disability.”

Third Ward Rep. Michele Papai expressed her support of universal design for future handicapable homes in the city.

“It’s a good start to the discussion— we’ve done one universal design, people know what the codes are, and it just makes the next one easier. So it’s a good idea to start,” Papai said.

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