6 programs that can help you repair your home for free or at a low cost

6 programs that can help you repair your home for free or at a low cost

In a city where 40{3ad958c56c0e590d654b93674c26d25962f6afed4cc4b42be9279a39dd5a6531} of houses were built before 1939, Philly homeowners spent an average of $1,239 on repairs in 2021.

It’s a reality that echoes through the entire state, where over 300,000 homes have moderate to severe physical inadequacies, including plumbing, heating, wiring, and other upkeep issues, according to the 2021 American Housing Survey by the Census Bureau. So much so that the Whole-Home Repairs Program was approved in 2022. This state initiative allocates $125 million — $20.9 million going to Philadelphia — from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help lower to middle income families get needed home repairs. Funds, however, won’t be available until summer.

If you need assistance now, here are some Philly programs that can help you bare the cost:

If you are in immediate need of assistance for an emergency repair of an electric system, plumbing, heating, roofing, carpentry, or any structural issues, this city program can help for free.

What qualifies as an emergency: Roof leaks that make at least a 4-square-foot section of your ceiling collapse, leaking or broken sewer and water service lines, floors and joists in need of carpentry repairs, limited exterior wall damage, electrical wiring that overheats or sparks, electrical connections that won’t stay on, and repairs that receive a violation from PECO, Philadelphia Gas Works, the water department, or Licence and Inspection (L&I).

Who can apply: Folks who own and live in the home, have up-to-date property taxes and water bill payments or have a payment agreement, don’t own any other residential houses, and meet the income limits.

Household size

Maximum annual household income

More than 8

$5,050 per person

How to apply: You don’t directly apply for assistance. BSRP is run by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation program (PHDC), so people submit an “expression of interest” form. They review the case and contact you if assistance is granted.

Fill out the form at 🌐phdcphila.org or 📫 mail to Karen A. Washington at PHDC, 1234 Market St., 17th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For assistance, 📞 call 215-448-2160, Monday-Thursday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Friday (9 a.m. to noon). 215-448-2184, for hard-of-hearing people.

If your gas, electric, oil, or coal heater system breaks during the winter, the Energy Coordinating Agency can repair it for free. During the spring and summer, they provide preventative maintenance and heater clean-outs at no cost.

Eligible repairs: Gas leaks and valves, heating pipes and controls, blowers, circulators, chimneys (including the flue), oil burners, and thermostats.

Who can apply: Folks who own and live on the property where the heater is, with low or moderate income:

Household size

Maximum annual household income

More than 8

$7,080 per person

How to apply: As long as you meet the requirements, just call 215-568-7190 at any day or time, during winter. In spring and summer, call Monday-Sunday, between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This PHDC loan is meant to help Philly homeowners pay for repairs at a low-interest rate. Credits can range between $2,500 to $50,000, with a 3{3ad958c56c0e590d654b93674c26d25962f6afed4cc4b42be9279a39dd5a6531} fixed annual interest, expected to be paid within 10 years.

As part of the program, folks will get help with financial counseling, loan application, and finding a contractor.

Eligible repairs: Anything linked to health, safety, or quality of life, including roof, foundation, siding, and masonry work; sidewalk and driveway resurfacing or replacement; and outside stair repair. Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, fixtures, plumbing, sewer, water line, water heater, electrical, window, and door repair or replacement qualify, as do adaptations that improve mobility, mold and radon mitigation, and treatment for lead-based paint.

Who can apply: Homeowners with a credit score above 580, who live in a property that needs to be repaired. You must have home insurance, and be up to date on utility payments and taxes or have a payment plan. Folks are recommended not to have L&I violations or to work on eliminating them as part of this program. The income guidelines for this program are:

Household size

Maximum annual household income

More than 8

$10,100 per person

How to apply: Non-profit Clarifi runs the screening for eligibility process, 📞 call 215-866-5200, or 📧 email [email protected]

Created for seniors, 60 years and older, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging provides free services for folks under the 200{3ad958c56c0e590d654b93674c26d25962f6afed4cc4b42be9279a39dd5a6531} federal poverty level. That is an income up to $29,160 for a single household and $60,000 for a family of four. If you don’t fall in this income bracket, there is still a chance to get assistance on a cost-sharing basis.

Besides repairs, seniors can get smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, railings, intercoms, grab bars, tub benches, and hand-held shower installations.

Eligible repairs: Wooden basements steps (they will replace them if needed), leaky faucets and toilets, electrical fixtures, exterior doors, and locks.

Who can apply: Senior homeowners living in construction in good condition. All your utilities must be functioning.

How to apply: 📞 Call the helpline 215-765-9040, or apply at 🌐pcacares.org

Technically, this program doesn’t perform house repairs. But if you have a permanent physical disability, it can help adapt your home for free.

Eligible improvements: Installing stairway elevators and railings, lowering sinks, cabinets and countertops, and widening doorways. They also install wheelchair lifts, ramps, barrier-free showers, and first-floor bathrooms.

Who can apply: Anyone with a physical disability who own or have the owner’s permission to modify the property. The house has to be in good structural condition, and you or the landlord must be up to day with property tax. Additionally, the income guidelines and application process are the same as the Basic System Repair Program.

Non-profit Rebuild Together Philadelphia runs three home repair programs. Their Asthma Trigger Reduction program and the Middle Neighborhoods Initiative are no longer accepting applications unless they reach out to you directly. But, they continue to run repairs for blocks where 10 to 15 homes need critical repairs. Neighbors can get together, and send one application.

Eligible repairs: Roof, plumbing, electrical, floor, wall, and ceiling repairs, as well as weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades.

Who can apply: Block captains or one organizer who gathers all the information. The folks that will take part in this initiative have to own and live in the property, agree to work along with Rebuild together in construction days, and meet income guidelines:

Household size

Maximum annual household income

How to apply: 📫 Mail the form to 4355 Orchard Street, Suite 2R Philadelphia, PA 19146, 📞 Call 215-965-0777.

Where to go if you need help?

CLS can help you find home repair programs and loans for free, access housing counseling, and navigate any unfair practices from home repair contractors. 🚶‍♀️ Walk into their 1424 Chestnut St. office, Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon, or visit 1410 W. Erie Ave. between 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Call 215-981-3700, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays between 9 a.m. to noon.

Lead by community members, the Norris Square Community Alliance can assist with loan counseling and home repair loan assistance. Call Pedro Matias 215-426-8734 (extension 1120), or 📧[email protected]

For renters

If you are dealing with repair issues, the advocacy organization Tenant Union Representative Network (TURN) has a Repair Clinic to teach renters about their rights. Register at 🌐rturn.net or call (267) 635-4130.