After pandemic pause, Habitat for Humanity to resume indoor home repairs

This Scarborough home was in need of critical repairs, including the replacement of its front steps. This photo was taken before repair work began. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland is resuming indoor repairs through its Critical Home Repair program after putting the program on hold for more than a year.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland recently rebuilt the front steps of a Scarborough home and made other repairs to its exterior. The group is resuming indoor repairs after limiting itself to exterior work for safety reasons during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the program – which partners with low-income homeowners to provide necessary repairs such as patching roof leaks and installing ramps – had been only conducting repairs on home exteriors for the safety of staff and homeowners.

“We’ve tried to be on the cautious side,” said Critical Home Repair director Ryan Carmichael. “Most of the folks that we’re serving have some kind of additional risk factor, whether it would be their age or various health conditions, and so we just wanted to be super careful that when I, myself, or the rest of the staff and the volunteers went into someone’s house we just never wanted to have a situation in which we were spreading COVID … Once our volunteer force became fully vaccinated, we felt like that was a sufficient enough reduction in the risk.”

Carmichael hopes that by resuming interior repairs, the organization will be able to more fully address the needs of the community. The program works on homes in Cumberland County, excluding Brunswick, many of which are older and require significant repairs that have gone unaddressed.

“By not doing interior repairs, we were not not serving a huge part of the need in Cumberland County,” Carmichael said. “It was really important to us to get back to that as soon as we felt like it was safe to do so.”

According to Carmichael, there are seven homeowners on a waiting list for interior repairs that can now go through the program’s process, as well as many others who reached out in the past year and said they would call again when interior repairs resumed. The biggest demands are follow-up repairs after roof leaks and electrical and plumbing repairs.

To qualify, homes must have an assessed value of less than $200,000. Homeowners must have a household income at or below 80 percent of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development median income, adjusted for family size, and are required to pay a portion of costs for materials and subcontractors corresponding to their income as a percentage of the area median income.

Habitat for Humanity didn’t sit idle during the pandemic. For example, its volunteers made needed exterior repairs to the exterior of a Scarborough home.

The homeowner, whose name was withheld, was unable to afford the repairs and was faced with the prospect of losing his homeowner’s insurance, the group said.  He contacted Habitat for Humanity, which agreed to replace his roof, build new front stairs and install a new guard rail on his back stairs for a price the homeowner could afford.

The repairs not only allowed the homeowner to live in a safer home, but also allowed him to keep his insurance, the group said.

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