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'Strong Neighborhoods' program boosts aesthetics, stability in Menasha

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 19:21:51-04

MENASHA (NBC 26) — In Menasha, a program called "Strong Neighborhoods" is helping families fund renovation projects to help make homes look and feel more modern.

The initiative is meant to improve overall neighborhood aesthetics and stability.

Judy Ketchum is one of the success stories of the program. She applied for renovations to her kitchen over three years ago.

​“In January of 2020, we decided that we're going to try to do this process. We started with the application and we had to get, like, paycheck stubs, tax things, and all that information they need to know,”​ said Ketchum.

But because of timing, she wasn't always sure it was going to work out.

​“Once it started, at the beginning of March 2020, everything shut down. So, we didn't know if we were going to have a kitchen,” Ketchum said.

But the funding did come through.

Ketchum said after her application was approved, she was able to craft a plan to turn her kitchen from a cramped and outdated 70's-style feature of her house into a more spacious and modern fixture.

​“When we first moved in... it was a very tiny kitchen. It had cupboards on top and an island," Ketchum described. "Two people could not walk through. Carpeting on the floor — just, it was very outdated."

"So, we had the floors redone, all new cabinets, paint, part of a wall taken out to open up the kitchen. And of course, the carpet is gone. Dishwasher, new sink. So, pretty much a full makeover on it," said Ketchum.

Before the renovations, Ketchum said her family hadn't had a dishwasher at all.

Menasha Mayor Don Merkes said helpful changes like these are what motivate his team, and it's why the city loves being able to offer this program.

​“We have all these great historic homes that need a little bit of love,” Merkes said.

There are two options within the initiative. One is called Curb Appeal, and it applies to work on the exterior of your home.​

​“If it's on the exterior of your home, it's a one-to-one match. If it's something like a kitchen remodel, or addition, or something that's interior, then we would do a two-to-one match," Merkes said. "So... we would pay $1 for every $2 that you put into your project.”​

But for those eyeing this plan as a chance to get into house-flipping, Merkes said you've probably got the wrong idea.

​“We want people to stay here; we want them to become part of the school district. We want their kids to have these great experiences,” he said.

A feature of the deal is recipients of city funds must stay in their houses for five years after work is completed.

"You need to be here for five years to be part of the community, and hopefully you're gonna love it here and you're gonna stay longer than five years," said Merkes.

Applications are accepted quarterly. If approved, work must be completed within one year.

Applicants must meet the Menasha Affordable Assessed Value, otherwise, additional information will be required. In Winnebago County, the house must be assessed below $203,000 or below $255,000 in Calumet County.

To apply for the Menasha Strong Neighborhoods program, or to read more about it, visit this link.