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Role of Nonprofits in the Home Repair Industry

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Nonprofits such as Rebuilding Together, Habitat for Humanity, NeighborWorks America and others play a critical role in the home improvement and repair industry, according to a study titled The Role of Nonprofit Organizations and Public Programs in Promoting Rehabilitation and Repair Activity from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.hard-hat

The report found that while the private sector spends about $300 billion a year to improve and repair homes, nonprofits support the home remodeling industry by fulfilling a need unmet by the private sector. By maintaining and improving homes for vulnerable populations, nonprofits help groups such as the elderly and disabled by creating a safer residence for those who may not be able to undertake crucial home repair projects, the study revealed.

The report revealed housing inadequacy—a measure of the physical condition of housing units—has increased with the number of moderately or severely inadequate homes rising by 7 percent between 2007 and 2011 to 2.4 million units.

While the study highlighted the roles of several nonprofits, a more in-depth case study was provided for Rebuilding Together.

Currently, Rebuilding Together has a network of about 200 affiliates in 41 states and the District of Columbia. The group focuses on serving low-income, elderly, disabled, and veteran homeowners in distressed neighborhoods and provides critical home repairs at no cost to homeowners.

In 2011, over 60 percent of homeowners served were age 65 or older, over half of all homeowners had a disability, and 15 percent were veterans.

In 2011, the nonprofit’s affiliates worked with over 16,000 homeowners and rehabilitated nearly 9,000 homes and 700 community centers for an estimated market value of nearly $170 million.

To more closely examine the impact of the organization, the study used survey data that was based on the outcome of the the nonprofit’s National Rebuilding Day period in 2011.

The survey included 19 nonprofit affiliates and 430 households. About half of the program participants had been in their home 30 years or more.

When program participants were asked to rate the general condition of their home before the Rebuilding Together effort, about 38 percent of participants said their current housing problems created major health or safety problems, while 45 percent said there were health and safety problems that could become more serious if not corrected.

After receiving home repairs through the Rebuilding Together program, participants reported significant improvements in their homes in terms of health and safety concerns, accessibility, and energy use savings. Over half, or 55 percent of respondents, said they felt that there would be a significant improvement with the safety in their homes as a result of the projects, according to the survey. About 30 percent felt the repairs would make a moderate improvement.

Energy savings were also expected from the projects, with almost 40 percent of households stating they believe that a substantial savings in energy use would result from project, while another 33 percent expected moderate savings.

Overall, 35 percent of expenditures went toward projects focusing on the exterior of homes. Exterior projects can help protect occupants from structural deterioration and improve accessibility, according to the report. Exterior projects also help home prices appreciate more and contribute to energy efficiency in a home.

Kitchen and bath projects represented 23 percent of the projects. The average value of each project, which includes skilled and unskilled labor and materials, was around $6,000.