PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer stood in front of a home at 41 South John St. on Wednesday to deliver an update on her At Home in Pittsfield program that delivers exterior renovation loans to homeowners who don’t have access to traditional funding for repairs.
Nineteen homeowners have been approved for funding through the $500,000 initiative as of late September after it launched in April. The repairs total about $420,000, leaving around $80,000 for new applicants.
The average amount per household is about $20,000.
Ten of the 19 properties are located in either the West Side or Morningside neighborhoods, which have been identified as being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2020, the City Council approved an appropriation of $500,000 in Pittsfield Economic Development funds for At Home in Pittsfield program and $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act monies were allocated to the pot last week.
It is also funded through local lenders including Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lee Bank, and Pittsfield Co-op Bank.
The South John Street residence, owned by Barbara Skalski, is getting $25,000 through the program for a new roof and back porch.
“Without the funding through this program, I would not be able to afford this on my own,” Skalski said. “I’ve been through another program through the city as well to help me keep it up to date so things don’t get out of control to the point where its falling apart on me.
“I’m just very grateful that there are programs like this.”
Skalski purchased the home in 2006 and received help for her siding and windows from the city in 2007. She was recently saving up to get her slate roof repaired but ran into issues when the cost came to be much more than anticipated.
As soon as the weather permits, Skalski will have the renovations begin.
She urged residents who need help with repairs to apply, adding that the worst that could happen is being deemed ineligible and the best-case scenario is getting the loan.
Tyer said this program is near and dear to her heart and one of her administration’s signature initiatives.
“Each of these projects is a powerful symbol of transformation that happens real-time, right here in our neighborhoods, and from the onset, we knew that At Home had the potential to bridge this gap, and dismantle some of the barriers that stood in the way of our residents improving the quality of their life, and our under-resourced neighborhoods,” she said.
“And I’m so pleased to share that we are doing just that, At Home has clearly demonstrated that it is a program that actively works to remove those barriers, it reduces the instances of deferred maintenance, and it widens the pathway to access.”
To date, At Home in Pittsfield has received 83 applications. Tyer said this demonstrates the need for it.
Eight of the applicants were assisted with other funding sources including Community Development Block Grant Funding housing rehabilitation funds set aside to match the program’s terms and 13 applicants are on hold. Twenty-two were deemed ineligible and another 22 are still working to complete the application.
The program is intended to cover exterior home repairs that are difficult to fund with traditional financing. These include roofing, windows, siding, and porches.
A qualifying household’s annual total gross income may not exceed 120 percent of the area median income. At Home in Pittsfield is for homeowners who do not qualify for other existing programs.
The properties must be owner-occupied and can be single-family residences or owner-occupied multi-family homes with up to two units. To qualify, residents must also own the home for a minimum of two years.
Tyer defended the use of economic development funds for the initiative. It was first proposed in 2019 and rejected because the councilors were supportive of the idea but didn’t agree with it coming from the economic development fund provided to Pittsfield by General Electric.
She originally asked for $250,000 from the GE account to kickstart the program so that homeowners could get loans of up to 10 percent of the appraised value after renovations, or a maximum of $20,000, but later doubled the requested amount.
“What we believed from the outset was that the Economic Development Fund was the exact right resource because it was putting money right in the hands of our own residents in our own neighborhoods,” Tyer said.
“Of course, we value using economic development funds to strengthen business and grow business but this was a program that was meant to serve people and where they live right in their neighborhoods, also extraordinarily important for economic recovery and growth, having a community of homes that have value is economic development.”
She added that it also provides opportunities for contractors to engage in the work and employ people. Seven local contractors are currently working for program participants: Diplacon Builders, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, J. Smegal Contracting, Johnston Builders, Salco Construction, Saunders and Sons, and Geary Builders.
Tyer also revealed that the program is slated to receive an additional $500,000 in the subsequent round of ARPA funding.
At the press conference, she was joined by housing specialist Henide Harvender, rehab specialist John Carchedi, and Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer. She thanked the city staff members for their work within the program such as engaging with residents and contractors.
The application and program details can be accessed on the city’s website; for additional information, contact the Department of Community Development at 413-499-9368.
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