The city’s Basic Systems Repair Program and the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Philadelphia offer free emergency repairs to electrical, plumbing, heating, and roofing emergencies. These programs are part of a larger effort to restore healthy, safe homes.
But these programs often come with long waitlists and don’t fully meet low-income homeowners’ needs. That’s why the state has launched a new Whole Home Repairs program that is designed to address deferred home maintenance, excessive energy use and aging-in-place issues.
Basic Systems Repair Program
The Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP) is a Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) program that provides free emergency electrical, plumbing, heating and roofing repairs for low-income homeowners who meet income criteria. The program also offers a Restore, Repair, Renew (RRR) initiative that helps lower income homeowners access low-interest loans to pay for essential home repairs.
The BSRP program was developed in response to the growing number of low-income homes deteriorating quickly. These homes often lack necessary updates like roofs, electrical systems, and plumbing, which are critical to healthy living.
According to a recent study, these programs are not just providing free housing repairs; they are also associated with crime reduction. The researchers found that the more homes on a block that received BSRP grants, the greater the crime reduction.
If city officials want to do something about the escalating gun violence problem, they should look at these findings and prioritize funding more of these programs. With the right resources and broader implementation, these home repair programs can be an effective tool in reducing gun violence.
Adaptive Modifications Program
The Adaptive Modifications Program, administered by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, provides home modifications to seniors with permanent physical disabilities. Eligible improvements include stairway elevators and railings, lowered sinks, cabinets and countertops, widening doorways and installing wheelchair lifts and ramps.
PHDC staff use an occupational therapist and gerontology experience to assess and provide services to residents. The team helps seniors live more independently in their homes and avoid institutionalization.
This program is aimed at providing accessible home modifications to low-income senior citizens who are permanently disabled, including homeowners and renters. Using a holistic approach, the team identifies challenges for daily living and works with them to set goals, create plans and make improvements.
This service also includes a focus on reducing lead paint hazards in the home and improving energy efficiency. Keystone HELP offers loans to help homeowners make these improvements for a very low interest rate. The City recently improved this program based on feedback from the community.
Restore Repair Renew
A new loan program in Philadelphia launched this week, aiming to help homeowners whose homes are in bad shape. The Restore Repair Renew (RRR) program provides capital to historically excluded homeowners and helps them build wealth and increase the value of their assets.
This is an important goal in a city with a high poverty rate and aging housing stock, where low-income homeowners often have to pay more than they can afford to repair their homes. Using loans from banks and nonprofit lenders, RRR seeks to bridge the gap between home repairs and the availability of traditional financing for low-income homeowners.
The program has received feedback that it needs to be more streamlined. PHDC, which manages the program, said it plans to make it easier for residents to get loans by increasing the loan cap, allowing borrowers more time to wrangle contractors and complete work, and allowing them to put down up to 50% of the total cost of their repair project instead of 30%.
Middle Neighborhoods Initiative
Homeowners in Philadelphia are dealing with some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and many need to make repairs. But many of the city’s home repair programs have long waiting lists and often do not meet low-income homeowners’ specific needs.
As a result, homeowners who cannot afford to make major repairs often lose their homes. That’s not good for the city.
In the face of this challenge, Philadelphia’s Council President Darrell Clarke and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker have teamed up to launch the Middle Neighborhoods Initiative. This program will help Philadelphia’s low- to moderate-income homeowners make minor home repairs.
This new program will also allow those homeowners to apply for remodeling loans to help them make improvements that increase the value of their homes. This is a critical component of our affordable housing strategy.