Home repair program launches in Belle Haven neighborhood

A woman helps make repairs at a home in East Palo Alto through Habitat for Humanity. (Photo by Paige Green.)

Habitat for Humanity, known widely as a home construction nonprofit, runs a less-known program that provides critical home repairs to people in need. Starting this month, homeowners in Belle Haven are eligible to participate in the program.

The nonprofit provides house repairs with the intent of helping people stay in their homes. Such repairs could include steps to make a home safer and more accessible, such as installing grab bars and hand rails, or could include exterior repairs like installing new siding, new windows or new roofing.

According to Laura Ealy, program manager at Habitat for Humanity's Greater San Francisco chapter, since 2012, the nonprofit has completed 150 home repairs in the area, and 20 in East Palo Alto in 2018 alone. The local program so far has offered services in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco and in East Palo Alto. Organization leaders hope to work with 25 homeowners in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven in 2019, Ealy said.

The plan to expand to Belle Haven seemed natural, Ealy said. "There is synergy between the two neighborhoods (of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto)," she said. "There are a lot of homeowners who have family in Belle Haven from East Palo Alto."

Homeowners earning up to 80 percent of the area median income – which in 2018 in San Mateo County is up to $117,400 for a family of four – are eligible for the program, she said.

The nonprofit has a dedicated construction staff and a number of volunteers who help out, Ealy said. Less-qualified volunteers typically help with exterior work, like painting, fencing and yard work. The nonprofit also organizes corporate volunteer work days, she said.

Because of the complexity and cost of building new homes in the Bay Area, Ealy said, the nonprofit does not have any homes currently under construction, but there are some in the pipeline. The nonprofit prioritizes the construction of ownership housing, and typically constructs townhomes, she said.

Helping people with housing in the Bay Area involves not just building new homes, but helping existing families stay in their homes "for as long as makes sense to them," she said.

This program aims to help people who may have lived in the neighborhood for many years, but haven't been able to replace the roof, perhaps because they're living on a fixed income or have had to save for other things. The nonprofit has worked with many seniors through the program, she added.

"When people think of Habitat (for Humanity), they think of new homes," Ealy said. "We want to get out the word that we have this home repair program for people who already own homes."


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