Belinda Poling credits the City of Akron’s new home repair program with saving her life.
The 46-year-old was among more than 1,800 applicants for the program, which offers up to $25,000 for eligible repairs to homeowners in need of financial assistance.
When inspectors visited her home in East Akron in September, where she has lived for nearly two decades, they detected unusually high levels of carbon monoxide in her furnace and immediately replaced it, next to her fuel tank. ‘Hot water.
“I’m really lucky they got out,” she said. “I knew there were problems with the air conditioning and the windows, but I had no idea about the furnace. It really saved my life.”
Poling is awaiting other repairs she asked for when she applied in June, such as widened doorways to make her home more accessible for her wheelchair. She wasn’t using the wheelchair when she first moved in, but now the layout of her home makes it difficult for her to navigate. Every time she wants to go to her bedroom or bathroom, she has to move to a separate chair.
“It’s going to be really helpful for me,” she said. “I can’t move very fast here, and having more entry and exit points will be safer in the event of a fire or emergency.”
So far, the city has conducted about 70 home inspections and started repairs on 20 homes. One is fully complete.
The funds come from the $145 million federal stimulus for Akron allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act, which is intended to help those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The idea is that homeowners can age where they currently live, so that the cost of repairs doesn’t force them to move, sell or go elsewhere,” said Sean Vollman, deputy mayor for integrated development. .
Vollman said the city is focusing on areas that have historically seen less investment, as well as low-income residents who “couldn’t do it any other way.”
With limited funding, however, the program will not be able to assist all eligible applicants. Applications closed at the end of August, and city staff will have to sift through nearly 2,000 applicants.
“The only real downside is that we have a limited amount of money,” Vollman said. “We start with emergencies.”
The city aims to complete at least 200 homes in the first year, with plans to continue the program until they run out of money or reach ARPA’s spending deadline. at the end of 2026.
“At this point, assuming all goes well, it would be nice to find another potential source of funding to continue the program beyond this point,” Vollman said.
Reporter Abbey Marshall is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org.