Why Home Preservation?

Substandard homes across the country urgently need fixing. Aging housing stock and low incomes are two risk factors that increase the likelihood and severity of home repair needs. 3 Investment in the aging housing stock is vital given the persistence of substandard housing conditions. The nation’s homes are older today (median age of 44 years 4) than at any time ever recorded and in growing need of critical replacements and maintenance. 5 45% of homes built before 1940 are in need of home repair. 8 

Repairs are one of the most affordable housing solutions.

Every dollar that Rebuilding Together invested in repair work generated $2.84 in “social value.” 6 Of this value, $1.32 came from saved expenses for Medicare and Medicaid, due to:

  • fewer falls and hospitalizations

  • fewer fire-related injuries

  • less exposure to lead

  • less stress and depression, and 

  • reduced use of assisted living facilities 

An interview with Lydia Tom of Enterprise Community Partners, sheds light on preservation costs stating that preservation typically costs about one-half to two-thirds as much as new construction. 7 According to an updated analysis of home repair needs and costs, the estimated cost of addressing physical housing deficiencies nationwide is $149.3 billion, an 18% increase from the 2018 estimate. 8  

Home repair contributes to socioeconomic mobility and promotes financial security.

Homeownership is considered a pathway to housing stability. However, achieving the American dream of becoming a homeowner does not always equate to financial stability to cover ongoing maintenance and needed home repair costs. Lost in this picture of the American dream are those with low- or fixed incomes who hope to comfortably age-in-place and pass on this asset to the next generation(s). 

Unmet home repair needs were highest in areas with the lowest incomes and home values, which were also inevitably those with the largest Black populations. 1

When home repair needs are left unaddressed, the low-income homeowner’s home equity and their financial stability may be threatened. A study of low-income recent homebuyers found that a third of low-income households faced repair costs they could not afford, threatening the financial stability of new homeowners. 9

Furthermore, disparities in home equity exist by race and ethnicity, suggesting widening gaps in housing inadequacy, accessibility for aging in place, home energy performance, disaster recovery, and improvement and maintenance cost burdens. 10

Low-income families living in inadequate housing do not have financial capital to respond to needed home repairs and may eventually have no choice but to abandon their homes to escape housing problems such as leaky roofs, rodent infestation, inadequate heating, or mold. 3 Maintaining the home can become increasingly difficult for many, especially at a time where the demand for home repair continues to increase, despite funding for these programs stagnating or even decreasing.

Home repair stabilizes entire communities.

Housing quality and affordability are central components to the health of all communities. 11

Home repairs do not just benefit the individual receiving the services but provide spillover benefits to the surrounding community. Results from a home repair study in Philadelphia, PA demonstrate the correlation between home repair and crime reduction: researchers found that blocks receiving home repairs enjoyed a 22 percent reduction in total crime compared to blocks that received no repairs. 12 The greater the number of repairs, the greater the crime reduction. 

Blighted and deteriorated neighborhoods most often suffer from a lack of housing maintenance. 11  Investing in repairs can:

  • Prevent homes from falling into severe disrepair 13

  • Lessen the risk of property abandonment that can lead to overall community decline 13

  • Contribute to placemaking, enabling people to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, where they can enjoy the social capital they have built within their communities. 14 

When a low-income home is renovated, the property value increases, benefiting the entire neighborhood. Repairing homes is the key to restoring vibrant communities nationwide!

Home repair is a form of much-needed healthcare. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified investing in home repairs for low-income households as a high-impact strategy for addressing root causes of poor health. 15

Unaddressed housing issues can lead to a number of health and safety concerns for all inhabitants, 11 yet pose the greatest risk for vulnerable populations such as seniors. Home repairs and modifications allow people with disabilities, Veterans, and older adults to avoid institutional care and stay in their homes. Aging in place is the preference of most people. 16

“More than 19 million older adults are living in homes that are in disrepair or ill-equipped to safely meet their needs.” 17

Studies show that housing improvement is associated with:

  • Positive impacts on socioeconomic determinants of health 18 including occupants' physical and mental health

  • Saving taxpayers' money: every $1 spent on urgent home repairs can save $19 in Medicare/Medicaid costs, according to the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. 19 

“Increasing a person’s access to home modification and repair services and assistive technology can decrease their risk of living unhoused or in an institution.” 20

Environmental justice and public health researchers have widely documented how health is affected by housing deterioration, including toxic air from dampness and mold, the strain of excessive heat, and the danger of electrical fires. Home repair can powerfully counter some of these health hazards. For example, inexpensive modifications can prevent falls, one of the most serious health threats to older adults. 1

In conclusion, the benefits to public health, household safety and financial security, and community cohesion vastly outweigh the costs of relatively modest investments in home maintenance and repair. 21