Strengthening Home Repair Services

Imagine you just got home from a long day of work and are preparing to return to your job tomorrow. Most of your time is consumed by this profession, and what little free time you have remaining you don’t dedicate to yourself, but instead to your family — your kids, your spouse, your friends. Life isn’t a struggle, though it can be a challenge. But then that spot in the roof that you thought you had fixed last month starts to drip, drip, drip again. When you close the front door a little too hard leaving in the morning, it ricochets off the frame and bounces back open — the locking mechanism has broken. And as you walk down the stairs to the street, your foot goes right through one of the old pieces of wood, nearly slicing open your calf. 

When are you going to find the time to fix all this? And better yet — where are you going to find the money? 

This may not be your life, but it certainly is the life of many living in the Triangle; people living in unbearable conditions they are likely unable to address alone. As the need for this assistance grows, home repair programs and service providers across the region are working to make it easier to find resources.

 

Take for example, the Essential Family Rehabilitation Loan Pool from the NC Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA). For years, these home repair funds have been solely administered by individual counties, focused on citizens in dire need of support within respective county boundaries. However, in 2018, staff from Lee County reached out to TJCOG’s Housing Planner Erika Brown with some thoughts on streamlining the program. With several retirements in their department, the team had a chance to evaluate the program and identify new efficiencies – utilizing the COG was one option. By chance, Erika had a prior background working in home repair and neighborhood stabilization, saw the value of streamlining the program, and quickly helped merge Lee County’s work into TJCOG’s housing work.

Today, the home repair and improvement division of TJCOG is young but rapidly growing — Durham, Harnett, Lee, and Orange counties are currently supported, and Chatham and Wake counties will be added to the portfolio in the new year.  Collectively, the COG's rehab programs provide over $1 million in funding to provide health and safety repairs to low- and moderate-income households across the region. A partnership with Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, TJCOG’s rehab specialist for various NCHFA programs, reduces administrative costs and creates a central agency to answer funding questions, assess growing needs, and provide guidance.

Unfortunately, this funding is relatively limited. Requirements to apply for the program are relatively strict, and help is often only available to a few select individuals.

What’s the silver lining? A bigger goal for home repair projects across the region. Erika sees the increased collaboration and coordination of these programs as the beginning of a bigger strategy, one that could include larger databases of home repair need and other funding or service opportunities. 

Most programs designed to help homeowners have been relatively isolated from each other; silos and overburdened organizations mean that information and ideas were often kept within the community they originated from. However, as the need for home repair and the communication between organizations grows, information is beginning to flow more freely and opportunities are emerging.

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) project is one sample success. The grant aims to help service delivery providers in Chatham and Orange counties improve the delivery process for energy efficiency, weatherization, and urgent repair programs that reduce the number of individuals experiencing high energy costs. Through a shared comprehensive database, residents of both counties can submit a request for funding from one service provider and have a chance to meet the requirements and be selected by another service provider. Triangle J Council of Governments, Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, and the NC Justice Center manage the ongoing effort, and the Chatham County Council on Aging, Orange County Department on Aging – Handy Helpers Program, Central Piedmont Community Action, and Habitat for Humanity of Orange County provide services. 

The Regional Home Repair Funding program and SEEA grant are just two examples of the value that coordinated work can provide. TJCOG sees collaboration and partnership between organizations as the future for effective housing work in the region. A unified process can keep those most in need from falling through the cracks. After all, everyone deserves a home in which they feel safe and happy to live in. 

If you want to know if you qualify for TJCOG’s home repair improvement project, please click here. If you want to help with the project, or if you are working with a home repair group who is interested in collaborating, email Erika Brown at ebrown@tjcog.org.