Maintenance Assistance

The Homeowner’s Maintenance Assistance initiative relates to the MAP Initiative 4: Creating Attractive and Desirable Places, as it aims to make TPA properties more attractive to residents and visitors. It relates specifically to Action 9: Promote and expand community-based neighborhood enhancement programs, as the initiative involves either starting or partner with a local-nonprofit organization. By starting a homeowners maintenance assistance program in TPA, residents can improve the housing quality of the neighborhood and make the area a more desirable place to live and work.

How

This initiative was created in response to input from public meetings, collected surveys, and an inventory of housing conditions in the neighborhood. Through the data collected, it was discovered that many residents are dissatisfied with the housing conditions in TPA, and that many lack the resources to maintain their homes. By starting a maintenance assistance program, this initiative aims to address these concerns.

Why

A neighborhood housing inventory revealed that of the 850 owner-occupied homes in the neighborhood, 64 (about 8%) were considered to be in poor condition. While this level may not be extremely high, it is high enough to have a sizable impact on quality of life, crime, property values, and retaining/attracting residents. Furthermore, it is entirely possible for even a limited maintenance assistance program to focus on the basic needs of 30 homes over the course of 2 to 3 years, meaning that TPA could feasibly cut the stock of homes in poor condition in half over a short period of time. This degree of progress would certainly contribute to the overall quality of life and desirability of the neighborhood.

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Figure 1 – Example before and after images. Source: Bud Tymczyszyn.

What

The Homeowner Maintenance Assistance initiative can be tailored to be as simple or as complex as TPA residents choose. A simple route would involve adding homeowner maintenance assistance to the neighborhood association meeting agendas and allow requests for assistance, funding, and volunteers to be processed through the meeting. In this format, residents needing help with home maintenance could attend a meeting and voice their request. The neighborhood association would then discuss the request, as well as available resources and move on the request from there. The neighborhood association also has the option of partnering this type of informal program with an already established community non-profit organization. Possible partner organizations doing related work or with applicable funding sources include Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity (located within the TPA neighborhood), and the Urban Light Christian Development Corporation. More on these organizations can be found in the Resources section below.

This type of informal system has two main benefits. First, it would allow the neighborhood association to start the initiative quickly, without having to start a non-profit or formalized program. Second, it would allow the process to be controlled by the residents within the neighborhood, in partnership with a local non-profit. The drawback to this informal system is that less funding options are available, and the neighborhood association would have to spend more energy looking for funding or building partnerships with organizations. This type of system could also be run by a focus group organized by the neighborhood association, and could eventually be turned into a more formal system if the residents so choose.

The residents may also choose to pursue a more formal and robust homeowner maintenance assistance program. The steps to this process would involve forming an organizing committee and then either forming or partnering with a non-profit organization that would administer the program. Organizing this program as a non-profit, religious organization, or community or housing development corporation (CDC or HDC), the program could then apply to be approved by HUD for funding, and then apply for Community Development Block Grants or HOME funds through the city or HUD. The benefits of this more formal option include access to more funding and a potentially larger impact. The drawbacks of this route is that it would take significantly more time and energy to initiate, and would likely involve more volunteer power (or a full-time worker).

Who

This is an initiative that would best be pursued or organized through the neighborhood association. After choosing which of the above steps the residents would like to utilize, the neighborhood association would then form a focus group that could begin working on the initiative immediately. By partnering with an already established local non-profit or religious organization doing related work in the community, the focus group could feasibly have a maintenance assistance program running within two months, and then focus on growing later if the residents so desire.

Should the residents choose to start their own non-profit organization to administer the program, the focus group would form a board, apply for non-profit status, and then apply for funding—a process which would take at least one year of dedicated organizing to start. Forming a community or housing development corporation would take the group at least two years of dedicated organizing. While this is may be a long-range goal, this could be worked on slowly over time as the focus group administers the program through a non-profit partnership.

Where

Prioritizing maintenance assistance could be done three ways. This first and most straightforward method would be by order of request. In this method, the neighborhood association or focus group would decide which homes receive maintenance assistance according to what resources are available and on a first-come-first-serve basis. The second method would be based on the attached priority map. The houses in green on the map have been flagged during our community surveying as being in poor condition, and would be prioritized above those in yellow (fair condition) or red (good condition). Only owner-occupied homes are shown on this map. By using this priority map, the focus group could either begin contacting the owners of the homes on the map, or they could use the map to help prioritize received requests. A third method would be to focus the program on senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. By working with the neighborhood association, a contact list of these individuals could be built, and the focus group would reach out to those on the list.

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Figure 2 – Source: Bud Tymczyszyn

Case studies

NeighborWorks Salt Lake

NeighborWorks Salt Lake got its start in 1977 in Salt Lake City, Utah, as Salt Lake Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). As the population and housing conditions in the 9th & 9th neighborhood of Salt Lake City were declining, a group of neighbors banned together to form NHS in order to increase the quality of the homes in their neighborhood. Using money from grants and home loans, NHS began a homeowner maintenance assistance program and a full home rehabilitation and sales program. While the 9th and 9th neighborhood was suffering from a crumbling housing stock in 1977, NHS’s investment in the community’s homes had a snowball effect, and the neighborhood was deemed fully rehabilitated and self-sufficient by 1983—a turn-around period of only 6 years. In 1982, NHS began scoping out new neighborhoods to work in and moved to the Poplar Grove neighborhood.¹

Today, NHS is known as NeighborWorks Salt Lake (NWSL) and has a full-time staff of 15. NWSL runs homeowner maintenance, first-time homebuyer, full rehabilitation, youth engagement, and real estate and community economic development programs across the city. NeighborWork’s youth program, YouthWorks, is an impressive model that employs local at-risk youth in a job training program focused on home maintenance and rehabilitation. This program engages local youth, teaches them valuable employment skills and offers them income, and uses their work to improve housing conditions across the city.¹

While NeighborWorks started nearly 40 years ago, it is a wonderful testimony to how large of an impact a small group of motivated residents can have on the housing conditions of a community.

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Figure 3 – NeighborWorks Salt Lake’s YouthWorks crew rehabilitating a local home. Source: nwsaltlake.org

Table Talk Ministries

In 2002, Bill and Pam Huston of Reelsville, Indiana heard a young woman in their church talk about how she could not afford to fix the caving roof on her home. Because of the caving roof, her home was beginning to have extensive water damage and rot. Bill and Pam had recently finished renovating their own home and had some materials left over, so they fixed and paid for the young woman’s roof repairs. Soon after that, Bill and Pam began receiving one request for maintenance help after another, so they decided to start their own group to meet the need.³

Bill and Pam started Table Talk Ministries as an informal group at their church, and soon after turned it into a certified non-profit. They run the organization out of their home, and rely upon their church community and local businesses for donations of money, materials, and volunteer help. Lowes, Home Depot, and Habitat for Humanity donate materials, and the organization is now receiving funds from the USDA’s rural development program (TPA is not eligible for these funds). However, the vast majority of Table Talk’s resources come from within their own community. Table talk takes maintenance requests on a first-come-first-serve basis (with priority given to seniors and the disabled), and currently has a two month wait-list. They do all repairs at no charge, and all work is done to code.³

While Table Talk Ministries is a religious organization connected to a church, it is a fantastic example of how a few individuals can feasibly start a homeowner maintenance assistance program immediately, with little to no formal funding sources.

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Figure 3 – Before and after photos of Table Talk Ministries repairs. Source: tabletalkministries.org

Resources

The most important resources for this initiative are already existing non-profits and community organizations. The Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity is a local branch of a large international non-profit organization with access to extensive community resources. Habitat for Humanity uses volunteer power to rehabilitate homes in Muncie, and sell them to qualifying households using their own home financing. Habitat is also known around the world for helping to renovate already occupied homes and to assist with housing and repairs during major disasters. Fortunately for the TPA community, Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity’s offices are located right in the neighborhood. This would be the first organization for the homeowner maintenance focus group to contact. Please find contact information below.

A second indispensible community resource for this initiative is the Urban Light Christian Development Corporation. Located in the South Central neighborhood bordering TPA, the Urban Light Community Church saw a large stock of vacant and abandoned housing in their community, and started a Christian Development Corporation to address the issue. Similar to Habitat, Urban Light CDC purchases, rehabilitates, and sells homes within their community. Although they do not specialize in the maintenance of currently occupied homes, they would make an appropriate partner organization for such work. Please find contact information below.

Should the focus group choose to start a non-profit organization or Community Development Corporation, or wish to partner with a CDC for funding purposes, the Department of Community Development would be the best contact for funding. The Department of Community Development is the local controlling agency for Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) Community Development Block Grants (CDGB), which can be used for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation. Access to CDBG funding requires working with the Department of Community Development to fill out a grant application, as well as paperwork to become an approved funding recipient of CDBG funding. Please find contact information below.

Contact information

Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity
1923 S. Hoyt Ave
Muncie, IN 47302
Phone: (765) 286-4825
Contact: Mr. Ray Montagno, Community Development Director
Email: rmontagno@munciehabitat.org
http://www.munciehabitat.org/

Urban Light Christian Development Corporation
1525 S. Madison Street
Muncie, IN 47302
Phone: (765) 747-1055
Contact: Ms. Dori Granados, CDC Administrator
Email: urbanlightcdc@gmail.com
http://www.urbanlightcdc.org/

Muncie Home Ownership and Development Center
120 W. Charles Street
Muncie, IN 47305
Phone: (765) 282-6656
Fax: (765) 282-8391
Contact: Ms. Connie Gregory, Director
Email:     info@munciehomecenter.com
http://www.munciehomecenter.com/

Department of Community Development
300 N. High Street
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Phone: (765) 747-4825
Fax: (765) 747-4898
Contact: Brad King, Planner 1
Email: bking@cityofmuncie.com
http://www.hud.gov/local/in/community/cdbg/

Additional websites of interest

http://www.munciehomecenter.com/

Sources

¹ “Neighborworks Salt Lake City – Home.” Neighborworks Salt Lake City – Home. Accessed February 18, 2016. http://www.nwsaltlake.org/.

² “Table Talk Ministries.” Table Talk Ministries. Accessed February 18, 2016. http://www.tabletalkministries.org/index.html.