The Brush With Kindness (BWK) program was developed by Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) to assist low income families struggling to maintain the exterior of their homes There are many reasons why a homeowner requires assistance with repairs. Homeowners without sufficient funds to make repairs are often affected by age, disability or family circumstances and struggle to maintain the integrity of their homes. To assist families BWK has been expanded into two programs: Home Preservation and Critical Repairs. BWK is also seen as a way to expand Habitat’s role within the community.
Home Preservation is designed for all exterior work that includes any painting, patching, minor repair, landscaping or replacement of exterior building materials for maintaining good or sound condition. These repairs help revitalize the appearance of neighborhoods, strengthens connections within the community and helps preserve affordable housing stock.
Critical Home Repair returns a house to a livable condition as extensive interior or exterior work is performed to alleviate critical health, life and safety issues or code violations. These major repair projects allow families to remain in their homes. Installing an access ramp or reconstructing a porch foundation that is on the verge of collapsing are examples of a critical need repair
Selection of candidates for either Home Preservation and Critical Home Repair must meet three criteria. The criteria for a family seeking assisting with a repair are
- A need for adequate housing
- Ability to pay back a loan
- A willingness to partner with the Habitat affiliate.
A family’s inability to obtain a conventional loan to pay for the work can be seen as an indicator of need. Circumstances that prevent the homeowners from doing the work themselves—such as disability, age or illness is another indicator of need. In many cases, homeowners simply lack the knowledge and ability to carry out general maintenance and repairs to their home. Repairs can be costly, specifically the cost of labor. Habitat eliminates this cost with volunteer labor. Families must have the ability to pay for materials, which is often far less than the labor cost. It is expected that the family contributes to the repair with sweat equity, the essence of the partnership, working alongside volunteers to complete the repair. We realize that some applicants may not have the ability to provide sweat equity. Other arrangements can be made to fulfill the requirement.
The process for making a repair. A family contacts the affiliate to describe the needed repair and request an application. The completed application with basic financial information is returned to determine the need. A knowledgeable construction volunteer visits the family to review the application with family and examine the situation. Family Selection Committee (FSC) reviews the application based on the criteria previously discussed, financial information and affiliate’s ability to perform the repair. When the family is selected an estimate and, in some cases, drawings are prepared for permitting. If the family accepts the estimate, a formal contract is drawn up and any required permit applications are submitted to the town’s building department. Work is scheduled and a partial material down payment is requested. Materials are purchased and work begins. Upon completion a certificate of approval for the work is signed by the family and the affiliate.
Brush With Kindness is an immensely valuable program for low-income families to maintain the integrity of their home. The program is consistent with Habitat’s mission of working with families as they lift up their lives, by building safe, sound and affordable housing.