Pictured, L to R: Kevin Foy, Robert Dowling, and Roger Perry, celebrating Robert Dowling receiving CHT’s Building Better Futures Award in 2023
Anyone who has ever owned a home knows that there’s much more to the cost than just your monthly mortgage payment. At CHT, we feel strongly that our job is not just to help people buy a home with a mortgage they can afford, but also to help them keep their homes affordable. That’s one primary motivation behind our Stewardship Program, a collective fund set up to help homeowners cover the cost of large repairs like roofs, HVAC units, and flooring.
But there are plenty of homeownership costs that aren’t covered by the Stewardship Program, smaller expenses that can still add up to become overwhelming, making a previously affordable home unaffordable, difficult to maintain, and even unhealthy in some cases. For example, a leaky or malfunctioning toilet can go from an inconvenience to a health hazard that causes costly damage if not repaired. But toilet repairs are not covered by the Stewardship Program. Similarly, appliances are an expensive necessity in a home that is not covered by stewardship – but a malfunctioning oven can pose a health and safety risk, in addition to being an inconvenience. As one CHT homeowner shared, “About a year after we moved in we realized we had a leak behind the shower that had already done some damage to the floor in the bathroom. Once we got it inspected we realized it was worse than we thought. We probably could cover the leak but the floor needs to be replaced and re-tiled which is a cost we had not planned for.”
But the Stewardship Program doesn’t cover an expense like this – so if a CHT homeowner can’t afford to cover it themselves, what can they do?
In 2019, a group of generous donors worked together to answer that very question. In honor of the retirement of long-time Executive Director Robert Dowling, CHT and 61 donors created what is now known as the Dowling Home Maintenance Fund, which can be accessed by CHT homeowners to complete repairs that are essential to their health, safety, and the long-term maintenance of their homes but fall outside the list of major expenses covered by the Stewardship Program. CHT homeowners can apply for a loan from the fund, which is provided with no interest and no payments and does not have to be repaid until the home is sold. The fund had an initial investment of $60,000 in 2019, and the average cost of a repair completed with the fund is $1300.
The ability to access these funds is essential to individual CHT homeowners, especially as repair costs continue to climb. Says one homeowner, “We can’t always plan or save for emergencies and sudden needs like this. CHT has great people but they still need resources to help those that find themselves in situations they may not be prepared for.” In the case of our homeowners, these funds can mean the difference between making an essential repair or not – things like plumbing, appliances, mold remediation, and electrical repairs – and can affect their quality of life dramatically. “We love our beautiful home, we want to take care of it because it takes care us and we want to enjoy it for a very long time!” says one homeowner.
But as an organization, it’s also important to us to help our homeowners maintain their homes so that when they sell them back to us, we don’t have to make costly repairs that could have been prevented with earlier intervention or maintenance. “We at CHT wanted our homes to be well-built homes for the people who were buying them initially; and we also quickly realized that we wanted and needed them to be well-maintained over time for all subsequent buyers,” shares Robert Dowling, former executive director at CHT in whose honor the fund was established.
“There’s always been an acknowledgment and an awareness at CHT that our homes are homes for the people who live in them – and affordable homes – but they’re also community assets. So we want our homes to be not only affordable to the next buyer, but we want them also to be decently well maintained such that they’re desirable to the next buyer.”
In fact, when it was established in 2019, the Dowling Home Maintenance Fund formalized what Robert had been doing informally for years: helping homeowners with expenses they couldn’t cover that also fell outside the Stewardship Program. “That’s why we’re in this business,” he says, explaining why this kind of homeowner support and partnership is so important to CHT’s work. “I always thought it was a good idea to meet those instances where work needed to be done, the homeowner didn’t have the money, and we wanted the work to be done because it was in our best interest as well. So let’s figure out how to get it done.”
On Giving Tuesday 2023, we’re asking for your help to continue to fund the Dowling Home Maintenance Fund, to ensure that the support our homeowners and our housing stock need is available when they need it. As repair costs continue to climb, the need has never been so great.
The average cost of a repair completed with a loan from the fund is $1300. $13,000 in donations in honor of Giving Tuesday would fund an additional 10 essential home repairs: eliminating toxic mold, replacing broken appliances, repairing plumbing, and fixing faulty electrical work.
Will you help us support our homeowners and preserve our homes for the long term? Please make a donation now! And in Robert’s words, “Let’s figure out how to get it done!”