City helps community with home repairs

Michael McGee | 7/15/2013, 9:11 a.m.
For the last few decades the Housing Community Services Home Repair Program has been steadily repairing homes around Dallas in ...
Councilman Dwaine R. Caraway, Dist. 4

For the last few decades the Housing Community Services Home Repair Program has been steadily repairing homes around Dallas in order to keep residents safe and financially afloat.

Most recently, District 4 Councilmember Dwaine R. Caraway hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 18 for a home on Berwick Avenue. The house had been restored after a fire damaged the structure. The HRP was in charge of the repairs, bringing the house back to a safe, livable condition.

Originally known as Emergency Home Repair, said Karen Rayzor, the assistant director for Housing and Community Service, the HRP currently covers the Major System Repair Program and the Reconstruction Program.

According to Rayzor, the MSRP deals with issues related to air conditioning, heating, plumbing, ventilation, roof work, electrical needs or other key systems in a house, and will cover up to $17,500 in repairs under a deferred loan to the homeowner.

In an instance of severe structural damage, such as in the case of the Berwick Avenue fire, the RP will totally rebuild a home as long as costs do not exceed $103,000. This is done though a no-interest, deferred payment loan to the homeowner.

Both services are aimed at serving low-income seniors. Those who may be eligible for a program must own their home for at least two years or be in the process of buying a home. They also must pay their property taxes, have current insurance, and have a valid deed.

Processing an HRP application takes about two to three weeks. Repairs are done on a first-come, first-serve basis. The assistant director mentioned that under the Reconstruction Program it takes approximately 90 days for a home to be rebuilt.

Rayzor said that about 155 major system repairs are done in a year. In the past the city has done 40 to 50 reconstructions annually but that number has dwindled to about 10 homes due to cuts in funding.

The HRP has been around since at least the mid-1990s, she said. It all started with federal-backing from the Housing and Urban Development department.

“As part of that grant, you go out into the community and find out what the needs are of the community,” Rayzor noted. Feedback from the community indicated that there was a great need for low-income housing repair and reconstruction.

Every year, the city hires qualified contractors through a proposal process.

“They have all the proper licensures. We look at some of their former work,” the assistant director noted. When someone applies for the MSRP, approved contractors will bid on the job.

“That contractor’s the one that goes in and does the repairs,” she said. In cases where a house is being reconstructed, she added, the homeowner determines which approved builder to go with by presenting the department their top three contractor choices.

Inspectors in the department make sure the work is up to code. The work must also meet energy efficiency standards since the clients that the city is working with are low-income families.

“We want them to be in a home that is energy efficient, thus not having high utility bills,” Rayzor said.

For more information about the Home Repair Program, visit http://www.dallascityhall.com or call 311 for assistance.