Sometimes, word of mouth is all you need.
For decades, the Lancaster County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities have operated a Home Repair Program to help people make structural improvements so they can stay in their homes.
Open to low- and moderate-income homeowners in Lancaster County who live outside Lancaster city, the program has long flown under the radar publicity-wise, but is never short of clients.
“It was always intended for basic home repairs,” but has evolved into a focus on general, code-related upgrades, such as those involving heating, roofing, electricity and plumbing, said David Brazina, deputy executive director of the Housing & Redevelopment Authorities.
A new septic system or well falls into that category, too.
“There’s nothing cosmetic” about the improvements, said Aimee Tyson, program manager of community services for the Housing & Redevelopment Authorities.
The Home Repair program “is to keep folks in the house,” she said, and is not for residences about to be sold.
“Our goal is bring the property up to reasonable safety standard,” Brazina said.
Columbia resident Rebecca Gantz had the roof, windows, doors and vinyl siding improved on her home about a year-and-a-half ago.
“Everything is beautiful,” said Gantz, who found out about the program by word of mouth. “I’m very, very appreciative” of the high-quality workmanship, she said.
The program also collaborates with other agencies — such as United Disabilities Services to make a house more handicapped-accessible — as well as churches and municipalities.
To qualify, people must own their homes and earn no more than 80 percent of median family income.
That’s $37,650 for an individual; $43,000 for a couple; and $48,400 for a three-member household.
Customers also get to choose the contractor who does the work — whether it’s someone with whom they’re familiar, or a name from a list provided by the program.
In most cases, the homeowner (who must have liability insurance and reasonably good credit) receives a zero-interest loan that doesn’t have to be repaid until the house is sold, or ownership is transferred to someone else, or if the house becomes a rental property and is no longer the owner’s primary residence.
In addition, the homeowner must be on time with mortgage and tax payments, possess no liens or judgments and have equity in the house.
The remaining mortgage plus the home-repair loan can’t exceed 100 percent of the value of the house, Brazina said.
Clients from across the county — including single people, young families and senior citizens — have taken advantage of the Home Repair Program, said Rhonda Lapp, the Housing & Redevelopment Authorities’ program coordinator of housing development.
Gerald Gochnauer, a retiree from Warner-Lambert, said he and his wife, Louise, used the program last summer to upgrade their 1969 rancher in Lititz Borough. Work on their home — which included a new roof, repair of ceiling cracks and other improvements — took three or four weeks.
“We’re very happy” with how everything turned out, he said. “They are the nicest people to work with.”
For more information on the Home Repair Program, call the Housing & Redevelopment Authorities at 394-0793, ext. 226.