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Filling the Gaps: Helping Struggling Property Owners Connect to Rehab and Repair Resources

June 16, 2020


Today, property owners – homeowners, landlords and businesses – feeling the active COVID-19 impacts are also bracing for a possible larger real estate market downturn and more unknowns. These influences, especially when combined with job loss or other challenges, leave many owners finding it difficult to invest in necessary maintenance and repairs.

Earlier this Spring, we shared code enforcement strategies that can help owners and local governments brave the long recovery. But, what opportunities are there to offer help for property owners now?

Code enforcement will never be successful if communities ignore the realities of their local real estate markets and the circumstances facing residents and business owners. Addressing these realties requires substantial investment of resources to support our most vulnerable property owners.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of programs active today that can help property owners address maintenance and repair needs.

How Communities are Helping with Rehab and Repair  

From providing supplies and discounted services to financial tools that help property owners make critical health and safety repairs, improve energy efficiency, and enhance the building quality, these programs are helping property owners combat deferred maintenance issues.

Note: Have another great example to share? Add to the list by emailing [email protected] or commenting below to share more help for property owners.

Free and Discounted Supplies

City offers free paint to property owners in Battle Creek, MI through unique partnership

Residential property owners can apply to receive up to 10 gallons of free paint from the City of Battle Creek’s Paint Voucher Program. The program helps address the common maintenance issue of peeling paint and is provided thanks to a partnership between the City and ePaint Recycling. Learn more

City offers free graffiti removal supplies in Kalamazoo, MI

The City of Kalamazoo, with Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) funds, provides Kalamazoo residents, neighborhood associations, and businesses with free graffiti removal supplies to clean up properties. Since 2015, these the “citizen kits” have contributed to larger efforts that help improve property conditions. Learn more

City program in Columbia, MO provides tools for volunteer maintenance

In Columbia, MO, the City’s Community Development Department created its Neighborhood Cleanup Program that offers free dumpsters and lot maintenance tools such as rakes, shovels, pruners and more to neighborhood organizations to use during their organized cleanup efforts. Learn more

Rehab and Repair Services

A Macon, GA nonprofit provides free home repairs

By galvanizing combined support from corporate sponsors, local businesses and volunteers, Rebuilding Macon provides repair and rehabilitation services to low-income homeowners at no cost. Learn more

Local Habitat for Humanity affiliates  offer free or discounted home repair and rehab services
Habitat for Humanity Affiliates across the country offer critical interior and exterior home repair and maintenance services including painting, roof repairs, weatherization, plumbing and more to improve the safety and quality of homes. From no cost services to others that offer affordable repayment plans, here are a few examples of how local affiliates are helping fight property deterioration across the country:

Fixing front porches in Flint, MI through nonprofit help

The Porch Project began as a grassroots effort led by residents to repair and beautify front porches for homeowners in Flint by painting, minor repairs and plantings. Today, it assists many more households through grant funding and donations from a local university and businesses. Learn more

National nonprofit helps residents “Rebuild Together” by tackling critical home repairs

Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit with local affiliates that through philanthropy, corporate sponsorships and volunteer support make much needed repairs for low-income homeowners or homeowners experiencing a recent hardship. Learn more

Nonprofit’s “Repair Affair” addresses safety and accessibility for vulnerable Kentucky homeowners

New Direction, a regional nonprofit, works to provide safe and affordable housing for vulnerable residents in parts of Kentucky and Indiana. Its premier repair event is the annual “Repair Affair” event day which brings more than 1,500 volunteers to make repairs on more than 150 homes that improve safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency. New Direction matches teams of volunteers with homes from March – September in addition to the main event day. Tools and resources are donated by the community.  Learn more

Cleveland Heights, OH nonprofit offers classes, tool rental, and more to support property maintenance and repairs

The Home Repair Resource Center is a nonprofit in Cleveland Heights, Ohio established to support the many needs of property owners struggling to maintain and repair their properties. It offers a variety of repair classes on topics including but not limited to carpentry, plumbing and exterior repairs. Property owners can also rent out tools and supplies from the organization’s expansive tool library, get assistance identifying financial resources, and receive guidance on their home repair needs. Learn more

Local nonprofit combines funding opportunities to offer rehab and repair services

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) offers emergency home repair, limited home repair, and full home rehabilitation to low-income homeowners in Youngstown, Ohio. These repair services are made possible through a combination of CDBG funding, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, United Way, Direction Home, and the Home Loan Bank of Philadelphia’s Affordable Housing Program. Learn more

Grants and Flexible Financing

Milwaukee, WI provides rental rehabilitation loans for landlords

Rental property owners who rent to income eligible tenants, have a Landlord Training Certificate, and meet other program guidelines can qualify for a forgivable loan of up to $14,999 per unit. The properties must be located in the City’s target investment neighborhoods and can include a number of exterior repairs, lead paint abatement, energy conservation and other interior projects to improve housing quality. Learn more 

Philadelphia provides health and safety-related repair loans for landlords

With funding from a state grant, Philadelphia created the Small Landlord Loan Program available to rental property owners with no more than 10 units of rental housing. Landlords can receive loans of up to $24,999 for up to a 10 year term, but must have tenants that meet certain income requirements to qualify. Learn more

Philadelphia addresses lending gap for home repairs

The City of Philadelphia created the Restore, Repair, Renew program to address the lending gap between low-income homeowners in the city to address health and safety issues. The City partners with nonprofits and lenders to provide 10-year, 3% fixed Annual Percentage Rate loans that range from $2,500 to $24,999. Loans can be used for health, safety, weatherization, accessibility, and quality of life. Learn more 

Detroit provides homeowners with repair loans
The City of Detroit created the 0% Interest Home Loan Program to allow low income homeowners or homeowners living in certain areas of the city, and meeting other eligibility requirements, to apply for a 0% interest 10 year home repair loan between $5,000 and $25,000 to make needed home repairs. The program is supported by Detroit LISC and Bank of America. Learn more 

Philadelphia provides basic home repair to address code violations for owners in need

Philadelphia’s Basic Systems Repair Program provides income-qualifying owner occupants with free emergency repairs to correct plumbing, electrical, heating, and structural damage. The program was originally funded through Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund and CDBG, with a later $60 million infusion of funding from a bond financed through an increase in the real estate transfer tax. Learn more

Cities use CDBG to help property owners reach compliance

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) have been a common source of funding for repair and rehab programs offered to property owners. Communities, operating within the federal program guidelines, have tailored their programs in different ways to prioritize types of property improvements and property owner types. Below are a handful of local examples:

Housing and Code Enforcement departments partner to provide lead abatement subsidies

To improve housing quality and create safer living environments for owner-occupants and tenants, many cities with federal funding for lead abatement have worked across departments to ensure greater access to these resources by homeowners and landlords. One local example is Rochester’s Lead Hazard Control Program. Learn more

Why Help Matters the Most Now

Property maintenance was already a challenge for many low-income homeowners, seniors, and small landlords prior to today’s crisis. The challenges they face will likely only be exacerbated in the months and years ahead.

Every community must consider how to create, enhance, and expand necessary programming to assist vulnerable property owners in preserving the quality of their homes and businesses. These investments are directly connected to the health and safety of occupants and residents, the financial well-being of homeowners and business owners, and preventing more significant disrepair and vacancy down the road.

Many programs exist across the country that aim to provide additional support to struggling property owners. This non-exhaustive list illustrates how public and private sector leaders have coordinated, gotten creative, and sought out new resources to help property owners achieve compliance and reinvest in their properties.

Why Deferred Maintenance Help Belongs on the Code Enforcement Radar

Code enforcement departments should be aware of the programs and resources that exist in their community and help connect property owners with them wherever possible. There may be services or resources that other City departments, local banks or CDFIs, or nonprofit organizations already offer that could be aligned with code compliance goals, or communities may find that a new program is needed to best meet local needs.

While many great examples exist, the majority of programs are significantly underfunded to meet current needs, let alone the anticipated needs in a market downturn. To achieve a more appropriate level of financial support for these programs, a much larger injection of flexible federal and state dollars is needed, along with a heightened commitment from the private sector – philanthropy, lending institutions, corporate sponsors, and nonprofits.

For more insights on what the field of Community Development needs, read Why Community Development is Crucial in this Moment by Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler, our president and CEO.

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