What is a Housing Rehabilitation Program?
The main objectives of a housing rehabilitation program are to ensure that low-and moderate-income* people have safe, decent, and sanitary housing conditions; and to increase housing and neighborhood stability.
A housing rehabilitation program provides homeowners with access to grants, loans, and technical assistance. Under the program low- to moderate-income homeowners have access to support for major home repairs such as:
- Emergency repairs
- Handicapped accessibility
- Electric and plumbing upgrades
- Windows and doors
- Energy efficiency upgrades
- Roofs and siding
- Environmental (lead-based paint, asbestos)
- Structural Issues
- Remodeling of kitchens and baths
*Low-and moderate-income households are those at or below 80 percent of the area median income as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Why is housing rehabilitation important in meeting local housing needs?
Housing rehabilitation is a vital component to preserving the existing housing stock. The housing stock in Ulster County is relatively old with nearly 60% built over 50 years ago. Older houses are generally associated with higher maintenance and energy costs, can pose greater health risks to residents, and have more overall repair needs.
Approximately 68% of the housing stock in Ulster County was built prior to 1979. Lead-based paint, which can pose significant health risks, especially for children, was used in homes until 1978. This means a significant portion of the housing stock in the County potentially contains lead-based paint.
Additionally, in 1979, the first New York State Energy Code was adopted, meaning homes built before that date did require any energy efficiency features or design considerations. The savings from energy efficiency upgrades to existing homes can be considerable. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of City of Kingston homes found that energy efficiency retrofits could save an average of $2,400 in energy costs annually per home, or $200 per month, increasing affordability for those with a high energy cost burden.
Housing preservation and rehabilitation increases the chances for low- and moderate-income individuals to remain in their homes and supports neighborhood continuity and stability. Seniors on fixed incomes as well as many essential workers with low- and moderate-incomes stand to benefit from a housing rehabilitation program.
Designing a Housing Rehabilitation Program Best Practices
To ensure that a housing rehabilitation program serves its intended purpose of supporting low-and moderate-income people to have safe, decent, and sanitary housing conditions; and to increase housing and neighborhood stability, the program should be designed to ensure resources are optimally directed.
The following are some best practices in designing a program:
- Assessment of need – Targeting resources to high-need areas ensures people who are most at risk will get the help they need. Things to consider:
- Are there seniors in the community who may face displacement if they do not have assistance with the rehabilitation of their homes?
- Are there children living in unsafe housing conditions?
- What neighborhoods have a high level of rehabilitation need and where is there a concentration of low-income residents?
- Should the program focus on single-family homes or on larger rental properties?
- Are there specific blighted properties that are hurting a neighborhood?
If possible, conduct a windshield survey of lower- to medium-income neighborhoods and note the conditions of the housing in need of rehabilitation. This information can be used to help estimate the costs of rehabilitation work.
- Develop program goals and priorities– based on the assessment of local needs, refine the program to answer the following:
- What type of housing is eligible?
- What type of households are eligible?
- What type of home repairs will be fundable under the program?
- What type of repairs are a priority in the community? For example, in communities with a large number of children living in hazardous conditions due to the presence of lead-based paint, the priority might be lead abatement.
- How much will repair and rehabilitation cost?
- How many properties can be helped each year based on the available funding?
- What criteria will be used to select applicants for assistance? Criteria should reflect local goals.
- Identify other local resources in the community – There are likely some housing resources already available in the community. By compiling a list, this information can be shared with property owners who participate in the housing rehabilitation program as well as those who may be ineligible for assistance in the program.
- Identify the financial resources that are available – financial assistance may be one of, or a combination of the following:
- Grants – for a percentage of the cost of rehabilitation up to 100%
- Deferred payment loans – Grants are offered with conditions or as a deferred payment loan (DPL). A property lien is placed on the property for a set number of years. The DPL becomes a grant if the property is not sold or transferred within the set period and if other requirements are met.
- Low interest loans – The program offers a below-market rate loan to the property owner.
- Program management and administration – a successful housing rehabilitation program requires:
- a program administrator,
- marketing the program in the community,
- soliciting applications,
- grant and loan processing,
- underwriting of loans and grants and/or DPLs,
- working with banks and other lenders,
- counseling of property owners,
- property inspections,
- cost estimates, and
- working with contractors.
Minimum Criteria for a Housing Rehabilitation Program:
- Pass a resolution to join an existing program or create a Housing Rehabilitation Program.
- Designate a municipal staff member to administer the program. The program administrator should have knowledge of grant writing, building codes, local ordinances, construction methods and materials, cost estimating, financing, and contracting. The program administrator will have the following responsibilities:
- Apply for funding from the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal for a housing rehabilitation program.
- Apply for other potential funding** from:
- HOME (HOME Homeowner Rehabilitation – HUD Exchange)
- RESTORE NY for the demolition, deconstruction, rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, condemned and surplus properties (Restore New York | Empire State Development (ny.gov))
- Access to HOME to make residential units accessible for low- and moderate-income persons with disabilities (Access to Home | Homes and Community Renewal (ny.gov))
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Housing Preservation Grants for the repair or rehabilitation of housing owned or occupied by low- and very-low-income rural citizens (Housing Preservation Grants | Rural Development (usda.gov))
- Establish written guidelines for the program on eligibility, application procedures, property eligibility, priorities and selection criteria, and types of assistance available. See below for information on designing a housing rehabilitation program best practices.
- Partner with non-profit housing organizations to secure housing rehabilitation funds from the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation, which is typically tied to a first-time homebuyer program.
- Develop strategies to ensure the program includes tenant relocation provisions for displaced tenants and preferences for re-housing options.
- Develop and implement an outreach strategy to ensure the program serves those most in need.
- Work in conjunction with local banks to market existing loan programs.
- Create an annual program report.
If Ulster County establishes a county-wide housing rehabilitation program, municipalities may join this program in place of creating their own local program.
** In terms of government funding associated with housing rehabilitation, whether it is for single family, 2- to 4-family, multiple residents up to 19 units, or multi-family complexes with 20 or more units, there are limited resources. Ulster County, due to its population, does not qualify to be considered an Entitlement County under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Therefore, Ulster County and all of the towns and villages, except for the City of Kingston, which is an Entitlement Community, must compete for federal funding. The County and municipalities must apply directly to the State of New York through a competitive application process for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership funding, which are two major sources of federal funds to utilize for housing rehabilitation. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through their Rural Development programs also assists very low- and low-income households with home repairs. The entire county is eligible for USDA programs. There are also a number of energy savings and efficiency programs available through the state and local utility companies.
Ulster County has applied for CDBG in every funding round since the early 2000’s. These applications include both housing rehabilitation and homeownership and the County is currently administering two funding grants that cover both activities.
City of Middletown Housing Rehabilitation Program – Using grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City’s program has led to the restoration of over 1,000 units of housing. The Housing Rehabilitation Program has a demonstrated track record of success; during the 2019 program year, rehabilitations were completed for 14 single-family homes and five multi-family homes that contained a total of 13 housing units. Many of these rehabs were located in or near the downtown, especially the multi-family homes.
City of Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program (TRIP) – A homeowner repair program for owner-occupied single-family homes in Rensselaer County. Program funding is provided by New York State Homes & Community Renewal’s Affordable Housing Corporation. The program is available to owner-occupied households who meet the following criteria: are under 112% of the area median income, households with fewer than $15,000 in liquid assets, and homeowners who are current on mortgage, property taxes and homeowner insurance. TRIP also offers a Mini-Repair program through the Rensselaer County Housing Resources (RCHR) which provides free labor to eligible homeowners for mini-repairs. The Homeowner is responsible for the cost of materials.