Program Helps Low-Income Homeowners Fix Exterior Code Violations

It can be a vicious cycle: A home begins to fall into disrepair, but the homeowner doesn’t have the money, physical ability, or know-how to fix the problems. As the home’s exterior deteriorates, the city cites and fines the owner for code violations. The result is a homeowner who has even deeper issues: They can’t repair their home, owe money for fines, and the house falls further into disrepair.

A new code enforcement program aims to break the downward cycle. Community Homeworks is working with the City of Kalamazoo to pilot the Code Enforcement Repair Program (CERP) to assist low-income homeowners who are cited for code violations.  

“CERP allows homeowners who have received a notice of violation a way to fix the exterior violations,” says Rachael Luscomb, a compliance specialist for the City of Kalamazoo. “Sometimes a homeowner will have an exterior maintenance issue that they simply are unable to repair on their own due to financial limitations. This program is designed to help fix issues and help lessen the burden of homeownership and repairs.”

This partnership empowers the City of Kalamazoo’s code enforcement team to direct homeowners to Community Homeworks for no-cost home repair help before fines are levied. The result is a more positive relationship between city inspectors and homeowners and a smoother path to repairing homes.

The program enables code enforcement officials to provide an alternative and more positive path forward to maintain their homes. 

Chris Praedel, Community Homeworks executive director, says CERP fills a void for many homeowners. 

“We know many homeowners either do not have the specialized skill, physical ability, or financial means to tackle exterior code compliance repairs,” Praedel says. “We aim to be an intervention strategy to alleviate this burden and help homeowners avoid enforcement action.”

CERP is just one way Community Homeworks employs nontraditional ideas to aid local homeowners.

“Our organization continues to look for ways to change systems in our community and reduce homeowner barriers,” Praedel says. “This pilot is a great first step in reducing the overwhelming burden many homeowners face when being cited for needed repairs they do not have the skills or funds to complete themselves.”

Luscomb suggests that homeowners contact the city to see if they qualify for the program. “Homeowners are encouraged to reach out to the inspector if they have received a letter and discuss needing assistance and qualifications for this program,” she says.

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