How Clarifi is fixing Philadelphia’s home repair gaps

Preserving Philadelphia’s existing housing stock keeps the city affordable and ensures residents maintain their most important asset, but homeowners have long grappled with barriers, from high interest rate loans to discriminatory housing practices.

When people can’t afford to maintain their homes, they are at higher risk of unsafe living conditions, compromised health, and losing their home to foreclosure.

Part of Clarifi’s mission is to understand these problems so we can develop the right solutions for the people we serve. Here’s a snapshot of the challenges our communities face, and what we’re doing to help save Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

The city’s housing stock is aging

More than 86% of occupied homes in Philadelphia were built before 1980, making access to capital for home repairs that much more imperative.

It would cost $3.7 billion to complete all the home repairs across the Philadelphia Metro. In 2022, nearly 37% of owner-occupied homes and about 41% of rentals in the region were in need of repairs, according to The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

As the age of the home goes up, so too does the risk of electrical malfunction and fire, mold, crumbling foundations and rotting wood.

Why home repairs are necessary…

Home repairs and regular maintenance help keep home values high, increase the family’s quality of life, and maintain the city’s existing — and affordable — housing stock.

Updated homes ensure families will pass down an asset — not a liability — to the next generation.

Home repair has also been shown to reduce crime in Philadelphia: A 2021 study by the University of Pennsylvania found that housing repairs in historically segregated neighborhoods were linked with a 21.9% reduction in total crime. The analysis of 13,632 houses on 6,732 block faces shows that home repair can help these communities overcome the lingering impacts of redlining and other forms of disinvestment.

…And costly

Interest rates for home improvement loans typically range from 6% to just over 20%, even for good-to-excellent credit scores, costing beyond what many homeowners in Philadelphia can afford.

Low- to moderate-income homeowners especially have a hard time, caught in a Catch-22 of making too much money to qualify for certain grants yet lacking the savings or credit score for a home repair loan. And too often, the interest rates of those loans are unaffordable.

In the Philadelphia metropolitan division, “nearly 75 percent of low- or moderate-income homeowners who sought home improvement loans were denied between 2015 and 2017,” per the Inquirer.

Fixing homes through a fixed interest rate loan

Restore, Repair, Renew is a home repair loan program for Philadelphia homeowners with incomes up to 120% of the Area Median Income and a credit score above 580. The City of Philadelphia program, which Clarifi administers, offers loans with a fixed 3% interest rate, making it the most affordable and accessible home improvement loan in Philadelphia.

If someone doesn’t meet the credit requirements, a Clarifi counselor will work with them on ways to boost their credit so they can be approved. Either way, homeowners will walk away from Clarifi with the tools and resources to improve their finances and preserve their greatest asset: Their home.

Through RRR, Clarifi is sealing the cracks to home repair barriers in Philadelphia.

Other home repair solutions

Other resources include the city’s Basic Systems Repair Program, which “provides free electrical, plumbing, heating, limited structural and carpentry, and roofing emergencies in eligible owner-occupied homes.” Homeowners must have incomes below 60% of the Area Median Income.

Statewide, the Whole-Home Repairs Program offers grants for basic systems repairs, energy efficiency and accessibility improvements to homeowners whose household income does not exceed 80%, and loans to small landlords renting affordable units.