Housing is a key focus area for the IMAGINE Berks plan. With this focus on housing, identifying resources from the federal, state and local levels have been essential to addressing the lack of available housing in the community. The Whole-Home Repair program is another tool that is able to address some of those needs. This program aims to address blight and other issues with existing homes in an effort to rehabilitate them rather than let them fall further into disrepair. For IMAGINE Berks, one of the plan’s partners, the Berks County Redevelopment Authority, will be administering the program. Between the launch of this program and the hiring of a Housing Planner, Jaime Perez, Berks County is actively working on addressing the issues of housing throughout the community. The allocation received for the Whole-Home Repair plan locally was $3,684,308 which ranked 8th in the state in terms of county allocations.
Online links to information regarding eligibility requirements, funding limits, and how to apply for the program will be available at the Program website; www.bcwhrp.com
The Pennsylvania legislature passed a groundbreaking housing investment program last year using funds from the Covid-era American Rescue Plan. This Whole-Home Repairs Program (WHRP) has now been adopted by Berks County to address both housing insecurity and the climate crisis. The Program offers forgivable loan funding for low-to-moderate income homeowners or a zero-interest loan equivalent to small landlords. These funds will be used to pay for fundamental repairs, replacement of a major system or items of their house, or weatherization of homes and rental units.
Some of the services that WHRP might cover include habitability and safety issues, measures to improve energy efficiency or water safety, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and more. The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Berks will administer the Whole-Home Repairs Program with assistance from Habitat for Humanity of Berks County.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, PA homeowners whose household income does not exceed 80 percent of the area’s median income may be eligible for forgivable loans. Pennsylvania small landlords who own no more than five properties and no more than fifteen rental units of affordable housing may be eligible for loans if they rent (and continue to rent) to tenants whose income does not exceed 60 percent of the area’s median income.
The WHRP is designed with the expectation that participating homeowners will continue to live in the improved dwelling for at least ten more years. At the end of ten years of occupation, the loan will be considered forgiven. If a homeowner sells a home improved by the Whole-Homes Repairs Program before ten years have passed, a pro-rated amount based on the number of years spent in the house will become due. For landlords, the financing for the program is a zero interest, deferred payment loan. No payment is required if the original applicant remains the owner of the property and the units repaired continue to be rented by low-income tenants.