More than fifty people gathered in the backroom of Fellowship Christian Church in Overbrook on Oct. 17 to participate in Overbrook West Neighbors Community Development Corporation’s fall quarterly meeting.
The two-hour-long community meeting featured speakers from Overbrook West Neighbors, PECO, ACHIEVEability, and the Philadelphia City Comissioner’s Office.
Attendees were able to learn about programs in the city that help low-income homeowners, seniors, first-time homebuyers, and people who want to be more energy-efficient. The purpose of the meeting was to educate community members about different ways to save money while maintaining their homes.
“It was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about,” said Pat Taylor, an attendee. “So now I have a lot of reading to do, a lot of preparing.”
The meeting started with a welcoming from the founder of Overbrook West Neighbors, Gregory Allen. Allen said the attendees were at home at the church before introducing the speakers.
“We want to see this room packed every time we do this,” Allen said.
Leroy Holmes from Philadelphia’s City Comissioners office showed people the new voting machines that will be used in November’s elections. Holmes demonstrated how the machines worked and allowed people to try for themselves. Even though voting machine demonstrations have been held throughout Overbrook leading up to the November elections, Holmes demonstrated them to community members again.
Jayne Melton and Dan Rosales from PECO handed out free energy saver kits to everyone who attended. They explained different programs PECO has that help people keep their homes and businesses energy-efficient, including an inspection of appliances and energy habits in one’s home.
“I didn’t know about the energy thing, that PECO came out to houses and stuff,” Taylor said. “I like that and I need that.”
Much of the meeting focused on services to help homeowners afford upkeep on their homes. Many attendees said they had no idea these services existed.
ACHIEVEability members Elhadji Ndiaye and Yolanda Mack went into detail about many of the city’s housing programs including the Adaptive Modifications Program (AMP), the Philadelphia Neighborhood Home Preservation Loan Program, the Philly First Home Program, the Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP), and the West Philadelphia Handyperson Program (WPHP).
AMP helps people with physical disabilities live more independently in their homes. It provides free adaptations to a house or an apartment to allow easier access for the homeowner. The Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation will first inspect the house and can recommend modifications. These modifications include accessible kitchens and bathrooms, stairway elevators, wheelchair lifts and ramps, railings, barrier-free showers, first-floor full and half-baths, and widened doorways.
The Philadelphia Neighborhood Home Preservation Loan Program offers Philadelphia homeowners access to low-interest rate loans to invest in their properties. The program offers a 10-year, 3% fixed annual percentage rate loans that range from $2,500 to $24,999 for eligible homeowners. The program can be used to fund home repairs that improve health, safety, accessibility, and quality of life. The program provides various repairs including roofing, driveway and sidewalk resurfacing, outside stair repair, and window and door repair and replacement.
“There’s lots of resources, but lots of times folks don’t know,” Ndiaye said.
The Philly First Home Program offers a homebuyer assistance grant of up to $10,000 to assist first-time homebuyers reduce the down payment and loan costs. In order to be eligible, the property must be a single-family home or duplex located in Philadelphia and fit within the program’s income guidelines. The homeowner also must complete a free, City-funded homeownership counseling program before signing an agreement of sale.
BSRP provides free repairs for electrical, plumbing, heating, structural, and roofing emergencies in eligible owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia. BSRP allows homeowners to apply for free repairs if the home problems include dangerous electrical conditions, and leaking or broken sewer lines and water service lines. In order to be eligible for a repair, the homeowner must own and live in a single-family home and not own any other residential property.
“I thought it was a great meeting,” said Lisa Jenkins, an Overbrook resident. “A lot of information for the neighborhood and it will last long. It was just great.”
WPHP is another city repair service that serves the Overbrook, Carroll Park, and Haddington neighborhoods of West Philadelphia. Eligible participants are low-income adults who are 55 years of age or older, and whose incomes do not exceed 30% of the poverty guidelines as defined by the United States government.
Proof of income in the form of the most recent annual IRS tax return or other government related documentation is required in order to participate in the program. The program also requires the homeowner to remain in their home for five years after the completion of the improvements. The program can repair various items such as toilets, sinks, bathrooms, doorknobs, roofs, railings, and gutters.
Advocates for these kinds of programs, like the National Low Income Housing Coalition, say they help homeowners access the full value of their homes and resist gentrification while also affording upkeep.
At the end of the meeting, Allen introduced the room to Overbrook High School’s new principal, Dr. Kahlila Lee.
“I’m super excited to be a part of this community,” Lee said.
She mentioned that when she went to Overbrook High School, all five floors of the building were full of thousands students. Today, there are just over 480 students, but she says that she is proud of each and every one.
“Our hashtag is #OverbrookWillNotBeOverlooked,” Lee said.
Allen ended the meeting by encouraging everyone to be active in the community.
“This is the Overbrook we know,” Allen said. “And we are, hashtag, Overbrook Proud.”
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I am so happy that there are programs for folks to be able to fix up their homes that they have been living in for years. The problem is, the contractors out there are aware of these programs and take advantage of us; especially older homeowners who don’t know what they should be charged for home improvements. The greedy contractors know that the homeowners have access to so much money and do substandard work or no work at all and then the work isn’t done, or isn’t done right. What can the city do about that? Nothing! I’m fed up with the scammer contractors. Even when they don’t know that you have access to the money, they suggest that you sign up for it. Philly contractors are so corrupt if you don’t know how to look out for them. It’s ridiculous! They’re predatory!
The city needs to vet contractors who are legit.