by Alicia M. Colombo
Drive through the streets in Germantown, Mt. Airy or West Oak Lane, and you’ll see new roofs, windows and siding on the homes of widows and elderly couples. Abandoned homes are being renovated and sold to first-time home buyers, while neglected homes are getting much-needed facelifts.
This revitalization is taking place with the help of low-interest loans and grants from Urban Resources Development Corporation (URDC), a privately funded housing program that is managed by eight churches in Germantown. “Many elderly homeowners don’t have the resources to do major repairs,” said Joseph Waldo, URDC president. “We see people who have lived in their houses their entire lives. They don’t want to let them deteriorate, but they cannot afford to make repairs on their own.”
The majority of people served by URDC are seniors, and almost all of them have been scammed by unscrupulous home repair contractors. “Often the contractor takes a down payment and never shows up to do the work, or they do such terrible work that it has to be completely re-done. Seniors are very fearful of contractor fraud, which adds to their reluctance to have major work done,” said Jay Johnson, URDC executive director.
To receive assistance through URDC, the home must be owner-occupied. The program generally serves people who are age 50 or older, and who live in or near Northwest Philadelphia.
“We have some flexibility in our eligibility requirements because we don’t receive government funding,” said Johnson. “We’re able to tailor our program to meet the needs of an individual and not be bound by rigid guidelines. We have occasionally done work outside of the Northwest in North Philadelphia and Roxborough. When people contact us and and we see the need, we’re willing to work with them whenever possible.”
Financial resources are available through loans and/or grants. Through a partnership with National Penn Bank, a non-collateralized loan of $7,000 may be available at 3% interest with a term of up to 5 years. “In most cases, payments are $100 or less a month and can be paid off early with no penalty. A lot of people may not qualify for other loans because they don’t have enough income,” said Waldo.
URDC also works with families to help secure additional funding for needed repairs. In some cases, grants are available for repairs through donations made by foundations, corporations, churches and individuals. “We also utilize volunteers from churches; that helps to defray the costs of the projects. That’s what makes our program unique. We have a high degree of trust in the people who work with us,” said Waldo. All paid contractors are pre-approved and must provide a written guarantee of the finished work.
The program targets the two most at-risk groups for deteriorating housing: the poor and the elderly. Assisting these groups is mutually beneficial to the community and the families because it prevents further abandonment and deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood.
“Homes in need of repair have just as much a negative impact on a block as an abandoned house. By helping families to improve their homes, we’re preventing abandonment and further deterioration of homes in the surrounding neighborhood, which improves people’s perceptions of the neighborhood and raises property values for residents,” said Waldo.
For more information or to apply for home repairs, contact Urban Resources Development Corporation at 267-664-3538 or www.urbanresources.org.
* Reprinted with permission from Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s Milestones Newspaper