January 20, 2018

A Philadelphia loan program to help preserve housing

Philadelphia Inquirer -Starting this summer, the city is launching a low-interest loan program that aims to give homeowners as much as $25,000 to fix up their aging homes.

The initiative — born out of city legislation passed in 2016 and called the Housing Preservation Loan Program — aims to give residents who have struggled to get loans a new chance at borrowing. For years, homeowners who had less-than-perfect credit scores — and who were not eligible for city grants — were forced to sideline major repairs, worsening their home’s problems.

Collectively, officials say, it’s created a city housing stock filled with more troubles than just old houses. In 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 160,000 homes in the Philadelphia metro area experienced roof leaks. Nearly 120,000 had a crumbling foundation. At least 70,000 homes had mold. And 258,000 were reported as being “uncomfortably cold” for 24 hours or more.

“We have this extraordinary asset in these resilient rowhouses, but we are going to lose them because they are falling apart,” said Karen Black, the CEO of the research firm May 8 Consulting and the cofounder of the Healthy Rowhouse Project, a local advocacy program that worked with city officials to create the loan program. “If folks live in safe, quality housing, their children do better in school. They have more stability. It changes their health.”

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