If you’ve been following along, you know that my family is trying to build a steel house, in a backasswards neighborhood.
I’m talking about using Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hangars, to build homes for people who really need them. And, the goal is to do it affordably and sustainably.
It’s a long, pot-hole filled road, but we’re further from the start than we were yesterday, so all in all, it’s a good day.
Until you open your email.
As I sit here, my email box is getting flooded with email from politicians.
It’s been going on for weeks, and I’m getting sick and tired of it.
They’re telling me about programs that I can sign up for, that will assist my family in building a home. They range from “government backed loans”, to grants for land, and grants or long-term loans for building supplies. There are even grants that cover the costs incurred when you hire other people to help you build.
Oh Happy Day!” Right?
I’ve been raising hell about this for over a year. I’ve been using the Internet as a hammer, to try and beat some sense into those idiots in Washington D.C. who claim that they are “single-handedly saving America.”
Most of the email I’m getting (and it’s coming from aides, direct mail outfits, and morons… and not the “other morons…” the actual congressmen and representatives…) is just political double-speak, pointing me at programs that either don’t exist at all, are completely deadlocked by political bungling, or impossible to enroll and qualify for, by design.
Here’s an example:
I got a listing of banks and lending institutions that would write loans to people who qualified thru a “government program” allowing them to buy and build. It was a long list, with over 200 institutions on it.
I looked it over, and then like an idiot, started dialing. I talked to what seemed like every banker in the South. And, I got the same story with each new opportunity.
“We have not made this kind of loan in the past 5 years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we even processed an application. If you come into the bank, we’ll explain why you can’t apply.”
And those were the ones that seemed to take an interest in my questions. The rest of them said that they had stopped supporting this kind of loan program decades ago.
They claim that they are understaffed and not equipped to deal with additional workloads created by these programs.
When I did find a bank willing to work with me on this kind of loan program, the guy on the other end told me not to get my hopes up. It seems that you can apply, but the USDA refuses to communicate with the banks.
The USDA? The US Department of Agriculture? I’m not trying to start “Old MacDonald’s Farm!” What the hell?
I found out that there is a grant program that would help me build my house. But there was one catch. I needed a USDA guaranteed surety bond, for $25 million dollars.
$25 million dollars. Whaaaa? For a house?
I was confused as a mosquito at a convention of Bubba’s (trying to figure out who to bite first), but I figured; “Hey if the USDA wants to help me qualify for this program, I’m game…”
So, I contacted the USDA. Guess what? That’s right. The USDA doesn’t even have a program that gives surety bonds to citizens, much less to help them build residential property. They suggested that I call the SBA (Small Business Administration).
I sent the USDA guys a copy of the grant I was applying for. And I bet it won’t surprise you to find out that;
- (a) they’d never heard of it,
- (b) wouldn’t possibly support it, and
- (c) didn’t have the funds, even if they could. In their exact words… I was “S.O.L.”
I contacted SBA, to see if THEY had any programs I could use to leverage the building grants. Guess what? That’s right. More governmental BS. The guy told me that I’d need to pay $5,000, to get a business plan written, that would allow me to apply for their programs. Now, it wouldn’t ASSURE that I qualified, it would just increase my chances.
Three days later, I heard from a different SBA official, who informed me that they don’t even have “a product that will accomplish the tasks you are trying to complete.” When I asked him what the $5,000 business plan was for, he replied:
“It’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a program. You should do it.”
When I pointed out that he’d just told me there were NO programs that allowed me to do what I was trying to do, he hung up. When I called him back, I kept getting his voice mail.
So, I talked to someone else, who told me:
“We get points for every person we get to enlist in the Business Plan program.”
Our government at work. Oy. And we actually PAY these people to do this to us.
In all, I called, emailed, or mailed letters to all 200 institutions. You want to know what I got for my trouble? Lost days of work and a huge dent in my cell phone minutes. Beyond that, I got nada.
Where’s the The Golden Fleece Award, when you need it?
I’ve seen a lot of grant paperwork in the last year. So far, my personal favorite grant was announced in July.
It’s an $85 million grant “to support at least 50 early career researchers for five years at US academic institutions and DOE national laboratories.“
The US Government, in all their wisdom, won’t help citizens build decent homes for their families, no matter what they TELL you. But, they’ll give $1.7 million dollars per “researcher” or $340,000 per desk, per year.
But WAIT! There’s MORE!
These university positions are for “summer salary and expenses” only. Only some of these positions — for DOE National Labs — are full time. And if you’re a “full-timer”? Well, full-timers get $500,000 in funding, per person per year.
Okay, color me “googled…” I race off to “Salary.com.” And what do I find? Well, the average salary for an assistant professor in the United States is $62,654.
So, I reread the grant. It seems that “undefined” excess in the expenditures is for DOE Lab expenses. That’s $438,346 per person.
Let’s put this in perspective. This 50-person “sweetheart program” received more money than nuclear energy R&D, hydroelectric power development, solar power research, or fuel cell research.
What is wrong with these people?
Somebody pass me a Tylenol, please…