BEMIDJI -- A federal program may be able to help people buy and repair homes in a rural area. USDA Rural Development, a federally funded agency, may be the answer for residences requiring home improvements, a release said.

USDA’s Direct Home Loan Program offers financing to qualified very-low and low-income applicants that are unable to qualify for traditional financing, according to news release.

No down payment is required, and the interest rate could be as low as 1 percent with a subsidy. Applicants must meet income and credit guidelines and demonstrate repayment ability. The program is available in rural communities of 20,000 people or less.

The maximum loan amount for home repairs is $20,000 at a 1 percent interest rate, repayable for up to 20 years. Grants of up to $7,500 are available to homeowners age 62 and older and must be used to remove health or safety hazards, such as fixing a leaking roof, installing indoor plumbing or replacing a furnace.

For additional information, please call the Bemidji office at (218) 751-1942, ext. 4 or visit the USDA website at  

The Bemidji Rural Development Office services the counties of Beltrami, Clearwater, Itasca, Koochiching and Lake of the Woods.