Low-income homeowners face significant home repair challenges

July 28, 2022
by Rodney Jackson, Internal Communications Manager at Rebuilding Together National

A recent study published by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies has given us several reasons to pay close attention to the market for home improvements and repairs in America. Housing is one of the leading social determinants of health. In support of that health, municipal programs offer eligible homeowners free services, grants, loans and repairs for qualified low-income homeowners. 

The specific type of repairs eligible under municipal repair programs varies with the amount of assistance provided; roughly 23% of that assistance comes from volunteers such as Rebuilding Together. The most significant proportion of budgets goes to critical, emergency repairs. Low-income homeowners spend three times as much of their incomes on home improvements and maintenance compared to high-income homeowners.

Low-income homeowners can often face significant challenges with home repairs and improvements. With limited financial resources, it's often challenging for low-income homeowners to invest in maintenance, equipment and basic home improvements. Most assistance in home repair is targeted toward assisting older homeowners' repair needs. Using the HUD median family income guidelines is how home repair eligibility is often determined. 

Rebuilding Together repaired 7,483 homes last year and our affiliate network raised $76 million in 2021, including an estimated $4.5 million in in-kind donations. That's an increase of nearly 12% from 2020, along with almost tripling every dollar invested, according to a recent social return on investment study. While home repair funding programs may vary, most repairs are completed for less than $20,000.

With limited financial resources, it can be highly challenging for low-income homeowners to invest in maintenance, equipment and basic home improvements. Home repairs take a lot of planning and hard work, but the benefits of a safe home greatly outweigh the costs of the repairs to homes that need a little TLC; our health and wellbeing depend on us.