Where Can Low-Income People Find Free or Affordable Home Repair?
On average, homeowners spend about $1,105 on home repairs.
Home repairs look different for all homeowners. Some people may be repairing holes in the wall, while others may make it their goal to repair water damage spots in their ceiling.
Ignoring crucial repairs puts you and your family in danger. Loose spots in the ceiling, exposed wires, and broken floorboards present safety hazards. Unfortunately, it costs a large amount of money to fix all the issues.
There are resources for free home repair for low-income individuals. Whether these resources provide a small grant or free labor, they’re worth checking out.
Contact a Government Housing Department
To find financial help for home repair, start by contacting your local or state government housing department. You can find government contacts by state by clicking here.
These departments may receive funding from the national government to assist with home repairs for low-income families. Depending on which state you live in, there may be different requirements for receiving financial aid.
If your local department isn’t able to help, ask them to connect you with local charities or organizations that might be of help.
HOME Investment Partnerships Program
The HOME program gives grants to state and local governments to repair and rehabilitate affordable housing. State and local governments typically partner with non-profit organizations to administer these grants.
This HUD program reinforces community values and principles by empowering people, strengthening local partnerships, and implementing strategies tailored to an area’s specific needs. You can find the contact information you need at this link.
You’ll be asked to provide proof of income. Requirements differ upon the area in which you’re located.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Grants
The USDA Rural Development program provides loans and grants for low-income seniors. Depending on whether you’d like to receive a grant or loan, there are different requirements. Take a look at them before applying.
This program seeks to remove health and safety hazards and is applicable to mobile homes. They also give grants to the elderly to remove potential safety hazards.
Submit your application to your local RD office. The length of the approval process is dependent on the availability of funds.
To apply, you’ll need proof of ownership for your home and proof of income for adults living in the home. You can also provide recent bank statements or letters verifying Supplemental Security Income.
VA SAH Grant
Military veterans or active military members with a disability may apply for a Specially Adapted Housing Grant through the VA. Eligible disabilities include loss of sight, loss of use in your arms and/or legs, severe burns, or loss of extremities.
A max amount of $39,669 is available, and the applicant must own the home. You can either apply online or have one mailed to you.
For those recovering from a natural disaster, there are grants available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
To apply, you’ll need to show proof of being affected by a natural disaster. You’ll also need to provide information about your housing situation before the disaster as well as proof of ownership.
Coverage of this grant includes home repairs, home replacement, and temporary lodging. Repairs include fixing your doors, HVAC system, windows, sewage systems, or utilities.
Apply online for assistance. Make sure to file an insurance claim before applying. This is mandatory.
If you lack a laptop to apply online, there are resources for low-income individuals to receive free laptops.
Housing Improvement Program
Members of a federally recognized Indigenous tribe or Alaskan Natives may apply for a grant through the HIP. Coverage includes home repair, replacement housing, or new housing.
To be eligible, you must be living in your tribe’s service area or receive permission from another tribe to be part of their Tribal Work Plan. You may also be houseless or live in a substandard home not acquired through a nationally sponsored housing program.
You’ll want to reach out to your nearest Bureau of Indian Affairs to find a provider.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity offers home preservation repairs to homeowners in hopes of improving the safety of homes. Repairs provided by this organization may include painting, weatherization, and minor repair services.
They use labor volunteers and materials donated by the community to help. To get started, you’ll need to find your local Habitat for Humanity.
Loans Versus Grants
Many of the above resources offer either loans or grants for repairs. Understand the difference before applying.
Loans are given in expectation you’ll pay them back. There’s typically an extended period of time between receiving the loan and when you are required to start making payments. Clarify the timelines with individual programs.
You aren’t required to pay back grants. This is gifted money. You may be required to provide documentation of expenses after receiving the grants, so keep all receipts.
As you research the different programs to apply to, take time to understand the different requirements needed to receive a loan or grant. If you apply for a loan, make sure you’ll be able to pay it back.
After receiving grants or loans, it might be up to you to find a contractor to perform the repairs. There are several things to keep in mind when finding one.
Start by asking for referrals from friends and family members. They’ll be able to share their experience with the particular contractor or steer you away from those they had a negative experience with.
If you find a contractor on your own, directly ask for referrals. You can also check out past customer reviews and testimonials on their site. Trust your intuition when hiring a contractor.
Be clear about the repairs you need, and get an honest quote before you sign anything. You’ll also want to guarantee they’re covered by insurance in the unfortunate case there’s an injury on the job.
Buying the Materials Yourself
Not all jobs need to be performed by a contractor. You may know how to do the work but not have the needed tools and supplies.
Many grants allow you to purchase the materials yourself. As mentioned above, hold on tightly to receipts to prove you’re properly using the grant.
Depending on what you need to repair, take time to research the repair process. If, at any point, you aren’t sure you can handle the repair, hire a professional. Not doing the job correctly will cost you more money in the end.
Some programs cover the weatherization of the home. Weatherization shields your home from potential damage from outside elements. It also improves energy efficiency, cutting down on your utility bills.
During the weatherization process, contractors may start sealing cracks around wiring, doors, and windows. They’ll insulate pipes to protect them from freezing. You might also find your old, damaged doors and windows to be replaced.
You’ll immediately feel safer and cozier in your home, especially during freezing months.
Repairs to Look Out For
You know you need home repair, but you might not know where even to look. There are several things to keep an eye out for when considering repairs.
Think about your roof. Have you experienced any large storms lately that could’ve knocked shingles loose? If any limbs fell off trees close to your home, they may have caused damage.
Check for damp spots after a rainfall. You might have water leaking through old windows, or there could be a leak in your roof. Especially keep your eyes peeled for damp spots in your wallpaper or mildew.
Does your HVAC system seem to be working properly? Many contractors offer diagnostic tests to see if everything is running smoothly.
If you have any exposed pipes or electrical wires, these need to be addressed as soon as possible. These are huge safety hazards for everyone in the home.
For Those With a Landlord
If you live in a rented property, pull out your signed lease. Many rental companies and private landlords include specifics on repairs to the property.
You may receive free minor repairs from contractors hired by the property management company. Inquire about routine evaluations. If they’re behind on these inspections, they may not be catching all the needed repairs.
Ask your landlord how to submit a maintenance request if you’re unsure how. If they seem to be taking a while with your request, follow up by calling their office. If necessary, research landlord-tenant law in your area to understand your rights.
Resources for Free Home Repair for Low-Income Homeowners
Home repair costs quickly add up, and it’s challenging to keep a home in good condition if you have a low income. There are plenty of resources for free home repair for low-income homeowners mentioned above.
Start by contacting a local housing department to ask about available grants or connections with local non-profits. As you apply to programs, carefully read through their requirements. You’ll need to provide specific documentation.
Not only are home repairs pricey, but phone bills can also pile up. Lifeline provides free or discounted communication services. You can check your eligibility for Lifeline now by clicking here.