In rural and small town communities across America, rehab and weatherization programs are a critical resource for families struggling to stay in safe, sustainable and affordable homes. Residents are challenged with high rates of single-family homeownership combined with an aging housing stock, relative isolation, lax housing codes and limited access to financing.
Yet despite a high demand for these programs, nonprofits in rural America face overwhelming challenges when trying to run a sustainable rehab line of business. Los altos costos del programa se ven agravadas por la disminución de las fuentes de federal, las fuentes de financiación del estado y del condado y limitadas de mano de obra y materiales de construcción especializados.
Para combatir estos desafíos, NeighborWorks America se asoció con la Fundación Wells Fargo Vivienda para establecer una nueva fuente de financiación para el fortalecimiento de las comunidades rurales. Con $1 millones en subvenciones fungibles, nueve organizaciones NeighborWorks que están activos en el espacio de rehabilitación de las zonas rurales de todo el país están financiando 53 proyectos de rehabilitación de viviendas asequibles que se ajustan a la salud, normas de seguridad y de eficiencia energética, así como sustituciones de 12 casas en ruinas con casas con calificación Energy Star construidos en fábrica.
El equipo rural NeighborWorks visitó recientemente algunas de las organizaciones receptoras sano y salvo. Uno de ellos era Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) en Burlington, Vermont. Como el mayor consorcio de tierras de la comunidad, CHT serves residents living in some of the oldest housing stock in the country. As a result, many of the homes require significant energy-efficiency upgrades and replacement of old, worn-out systems related to air and water temperature and quality. Alarmingly, nearly 60 percent of homes in the area were built when lead paint was prevalent.
“Sometimes people are in really precarious situations,” Cheryl Read told us. “But sometimes we can replace a furnace or a roof and that buys them some time to get their ducks in a row so they can afford a replacement.”
In the case of one home that was considered a historic resource, Read added, “We had to be careful because one of the things that really needed to be repaired was the porch. Nobody knew until the contractor got there that one of the support beams had snapped at some point. It had been that way for a long time. They were so fortunate they got that taken care of because it could’ve been a major issue.”
Another site visited by the team was Self-Help Enterprises in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where we met Salvador and Rita Rodriguez. Both 70 años de edad, the retired homeowners live on a fixed income in a 1,751-square-foot home built in 1935. The roof shingles were leaking, and the exterior siding was cracked and damaged from rot. During the cold valley winters, the temperature would drop below freezing, and the lack of insulation made the nights long and miserable. At the other extreme, the summers are scorching and the home was unable to trap the cool air from the window-mounted air-conditioning unit. Compounding the problems were exposed electrical wiring, leaky plumbing, rusty gas lines, loose vinyl floor tiles and broken windows that would not open. (Sounds like the movie, “Money Pit”!)
They were an ideal match for the Safe and Sound grant, and they received $7,050 through the program, along with a zero-percent interest, deferred-payment loan offered by Self-Help Enterprises through a partnership with the city of Woodlake. In addition to all of the obvious repairs and upgrades to make the home compliant with green building codes, a wheelchair-accessible shower was installed to help with Salvador’s recovery from surgery.
The Rodríguezes say they indeed now feel much more “safe and sound.”