Habitat for Humanity wants to lead neighbors to help each other fix their homes.
The organization is working with the city to develop a program in which residents could work together on painting projects, weatherization, and even serious repairs.
In the next week, city officials will be calling neighborhood leaders and others to discuss the proposal. It would start in the North Side neighborhood and grow into a city-wide effort.
Habitat Executive Director Jeffrey Clark said his agency still will build homes.
“This is just an expansion of what we do,” he said. “It’s neighborhood revitalization. It’s not Habitat riding in. We’re trying to create a community effort.”
Two years ago, the international organization began working with homeowners to fix up their homes. The goal was to attack substandard housing from another angle, by improving existing buildings, Clark said.
Habitat’s overall mission is to eliminate substandard housing.
Locally, Clark met with the city’s code enforcers, who identified some “light work” that an all-volunteer crew could handle.
“Now things are starting to come together,” Clark said. “At this point, we have identified a number of potential partners in the program.”
Habitat would help orchestrate the work, organizing teams of volunteers and matching them with projects in their neighborhood. The agency also might pay for materials in expensive repairs, which the homeowner would have to pay back.
Habitat offers zero-interest loans for its mortgages, and likely would offer the same deal for materials, Clark said.
“We hope people will be able to do some sweat equity,” he added. Sweat equity is Habitat’s phrase for those who volunteer on their own house, or work on another house to earn work on their own house.
Another key is to match volunteers with projects in their own neighborhoods.
“If this is not community-driven at some point, it’s not going to work,” Clark said. “We have to get the neighbors together.”
He predicted neighbors would band together after their first experience, eager to do more.
“It’s a fun day,” he said. “And you see how much better the neighborhood looks. And you just keep working on it.”
Mayor Gary McCarthy said Habitat could help owners who don’t have the money to make minor repairs. It could enhance the city’s “homeownership made easy” philosophy, he said.
“Buying a house is only one component of that,” he said.