At-Home in Pittsfield Program Update

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Linda Tyer, stood in front of a home at 41 South John Street, a residence slated for repairs through the city’s At-Home in Pittsfield program, and shared an update on the popular initiative.

The mayor was joined by city officials including Deanna Ruffer, director of Community Development; Henide Harvender, housing specialist; and John Carchedi, rehab specialist; and the homeowner, Barbara Skalski.

At the end of September, a total of 19 homeowners have been approved for funding exterior repairs through the At-Home program, which launched this past April. At-Home in Pittsfield, an exterior renovation loan program, enables eligible homeowners to renovate the outside of their homes through a combination of funding from local lenders which include Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lee Bank, Pittsfield Co-op Bank, and the City of Pittsfield. The program is designed to assist residents who do not have access to traditional financing. Homeowners that do not have a relationship with one of the participating lenders are able to access At-Home funds directly from the city.

Eligible repairs include roofing replacement; window and door replacement; porch repairs; chimney repairs; and siding replacement. In this first round of the program, the cost of the repairs to date represents $420,809 of the $500,000 allocated for the program. The most frequently requested type of assistance include roof and gutter replacements, followed by windows replacement, siding, and porch repairs. The average spending per household is $20,000.

Ten of the 19 properties are located in either the Westside or Morningside neighborhood.

“Each of these projects is a powerful symbol of transformation happening in real-time in our community. From the onset, we knew that At-Home had the potential to bridge a gap and dismantle barriers that stand in the way of improving the quality of life for our under-resourced neighbors and I’m so pleased to share that it’s doing just that,” said Mayor Linda Tyer. “At-Home has clearly demonstrated that it is a program that actively works to remove those barriers, reduce the instances of deferred maintenance and widen the pathway of access. Thanks to its proven success, we’re excited to expand its capacity in the second round with an allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act funding.”

At-Home in Pittsfield is set to receive $500,000 in the first phase of ARPA funding, which was announced last week. Mayor Tyer also noted that At-Home is slated to receive an additional $500,000 in the subsequent round of ARPA funding.

For residents like Skalski, who has been in her home since 2006, this program is essential to completing much needed repairs.

“I don’t want my home to fall apart, and without this program, I would not have been able to do it,” said Skalski, who has also benefitted from previous city programs. “I am so grateful that there are programs that I can use.”

Skalski said she has told others about the program, and regarding the process, it’s about being diligent about the paperwork. “You just have to have your mortgage statement and your financial documents ready. It’s like going for any kind of loan,” she said.

As a starting point, properties must be owner-occupied and may be single-family homes or owner occupied multi-family structure with up to two housing units. Applicants must own the home for a minimum of two years at the time they fill out the application.

With the help of the participating financial institutions, applicants are determined to be eligible. Then, the Department of Community Development provides them with a list of 24 qualified contractors from whom to seek estimates. To date, seven contractors are participating in the program participants: Diplacon Builders, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, J. Smegal Contracting,
Johnston Builders, Salco Construction, Saunders and Sons, and Geary Builders.

Harvender noted that staff is ready to assist residents through this process.

“We are always willing to help people. They can reach out to us whichever way is best for them,” she said. “For those who may not qualify, we will still look for alternate resources to help them.”

As of Oct. 27, the city received 83 applications, demonstrating the overwhelming need for these funds. Eight applicants were assisted through other funding sources including a set aside of Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG) housing rehabilitation funds structured to match the terms of the At Home in Pittsfield program. Thirteen applications are on hold for various reasons and 22 were determined not to be eligible due to financial resources, the length of time they have owned their home, or other household specific considerations. Twenty-two applicants are still working on providing the required paperwork to determine eligibility.
The application and program details, which are also available in Spanish, can be accessed via the city’s website, cityofpittsfield.org. For questions or additional information, please contact the Department of Community Development at 499-9368.