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Aging homeowners in Philadelphia face some unique challenges. The costs to own a home can quickly add up — from homeowners insurance to property taxes and maintenance costs. In fact, Philadelphia homeowners have some of the highest repair costs in the country. Over 35% of households in Philadelphia need repairs each year, with an average repair cost of $1,685.
Philadelphia is one of the older cities in the country — it’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed, so its existence goes hand-in-hand with the establishment of this country. It’s rich with history, but also ripe with older homes. Many of the affordable properties available to low-income Philadelphia residents are these older houses. Older homes come with some positive traits, such as character and charm, but they also typically require more maintenance and often require significant renovations to become liveable.
This presents a particularly difficult challenge for Philadelphia seniors who may require even more home modifications to make their home accessible. Modifications like pull bars, ADA-accessible ramps, and additional railings can make all the difference for an aging resident.
However, all hope isn’t lost for senior homeowners in Philadelphia. Programs that offer help with home repairs or modifications can provide the help needed to keep living in a home as you get older. Senior Philadelphia residents only need to know where to look. We’ve got a guide to some of the best programs in the city that can help, without requiring the homeowner to pay a dime. Let’s get into it.
Free home repair programs available for senior citizens in Philadelphia
Good news: Philadelphia has a wide variety of services and programs available to give aging residents and homeowners a hand. However, it can be difficult to track down the right programs to help you get free home repairs. Don’t worry. We’ve outlined the most helpful home repair programs for senior citizens in Philadelphia right here, so you can find what you need in one place.
PCA’s Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP)
The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) has this program for low-income seniors in Philadelphia that provides minor home repairs and modifications. Repairs through SHARP may include installing railings, intercoms, or grab bars and repairing or replacing wooden basement steps, electrical fixtures, or leaky faucets and toilets.
After conducting a thorough home evaluation, the PCA provides quality repairs according to the needs of homeowners. Inspections are done both before and after repairs are completed to make sure the project is completed to the standards of the homeowner and the city’s regulations.
Who’s Eligible: Philadelphia homeowners over the age of 60 with a structurally sound home can take advantage of this program. For services to be free, residents must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. If residents have an income higher than this, they may still be eligible for the services on a cost-sharing basis.
Year round, eligible homeowners in Philly can take advantage of the Heater Hotline. The service provides free preventative maintenance for heaters and heater cleanouts for homeowners. Heater cleanouts, however, are only available during Spring and Summer months. Oil burners, gas valves, thermostats, and chimneys are a few of the heating-related home parts that are eligible for repair through the program.
Interested homeowners can call the Heater Hotline at (215)568-7190 to find out more details.
Who’s Eligible: You can use the Heater Hotline if you are a Philadelphia homeowner who owns and occupies a single family home and you have an income below 150% of the federal poverty level.
The Adaptive Modifications Program
Seniors with a permanent disability can receive help with home modifications for more independent living through the Adaptive Modifications Program. Administered by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), this program is available to anyone who owns a structurally sound home or who lives in a rental unit where the owner allows for modifications.
The modifications included give residents the freedom to live more independently in their homes. Some of the modifications provided by the program include railings, exterior wheelchair ramps and lifts, and widened doorways.
To apply, you must fill out an application form. The form can be filled out and submitted online, by mail, or over the phone.
Who’s Eligible: Philadelphia residents with a permanent disability may apply. They must live in a property that is structurally sound. They may either own the home or have permission from the owner for modifications. The owner of the property must also be up-to-date on property taxes and meet the income requirements, which is calculated using gross income and differs depending on the number of people in the household. Find the full income guidelines on their website.
Basic Systems Repair Program
Another program administered by the PHDC, the Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP) provides emergency electrical, plumbing, heating, and roofing repairs to eligible Philadelphia homeowners. Repairs may include leaking or broken sewer lines, dangerous electrical conditions, and roof leaks.
Eligible Philadelphia homeowners can apply by mail, online, or over the phone. You will need to provide basic personal info, as well as proof of the emergency.
It’s important to note, that if you need heater repairs, they recommend that you call the Heater hotline first.
Who’s Eligible: Philadelphia homeowners who live in the damaged property and do not own any other properties can apply if they meet the gross income requirements by household size and are up-to-date on property taxes and their water bill.
Restore, Repair, Renew Program
Restore, Repair, Renew is an initiative of the City of Philadelphia and is administered by participating lenders. While not free, the program provides eligible Philadelphia homeowners with low-interest loans to invest in their properties. Eligible repairs may include replacing water heaters, HVAC repairs or replacements, electrical repairs, mold or lead-paint treatments, and many other repairs that will help improve the home.
Residents can find out if they are eligible by calling or emailing to start the screening process. If eligible, the program will help participants with financial counseling, planning the repairs, and finding a contractor.
Who’s eligible: Philadelphia residents with a primary residence needing repairs can apply. Applicants must also have a credit score above 580, homeowners insurance, and no L&I violations. They must also be up to date on all public utilities and property taxes.
Middle Neighborhoods Initiative
Providing repairs and revitalization to middle-income neighborhoods that are often overlooked, the Middle Neighborhoods Initiative works block by block in eligible areas. Using both in-house contractors and subcontractors, the program offers free repairs to aging homeowners in middle neighborhoods. Repairs include energy efficiency improvements, systems repairs, structural repairs, and accessibility improvements.
The Middle Neighborhoods Initiative works in chunks, so residents must have at least 10 total eligible homeowners in need of repairs on their block to apply.
Who’s eligible: Homeowners 55 or older who own and occupy their home. Homeowners must be present on all repair days and meet the income eligibility guidelines by household size. Each block of homeowners that apply must have a block captain to gather each individual application.
Philadelphia older adults who have difficulty completing Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) may find assistance through the CAPABLE program. Minor home modifications may be part of the program if a need is determined.
The program has a holistic approach to providing home modifications. Participants first work with both a registered nurse and an Occupational Therapist. Together, they identify challenges for daily living, set goals, and make a plan for improvement. Some self-care goals for participants may include getting the mail, doing laundry, or walking up and down stairs.
Interested participants can fill out the form on the website to get more information and find out how to apply.
Who’s eligible: Adults 60 years or older living in Delaware, Philadelphia, or Montgomery counties may apply. Applicants should have trouble completing at least one ADL and have an income under 250% of the federal poverty level.
Help at Home (OPTIONS)
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) provides a wide range of services to aging adults wishing to stay in their home through the OPTIONS program. Through the program, home modifications that offer safety and accessibility may be offered.
Services provided are free to those who meet the income requirements. Those with a higher income may still be eligible for assistance with a sliding payment scale based on income level.
Who’s eligible: Pennsylvania residents 60 years or older who are US citizens or legal residents can apply. Applicants must also show that they have unmet needs that impact daily functioning.
Shared Housing and Resource Exchange
Homeowners over 60 in Philadelphia with extra space can join the Shared Housing and Resource Exchange (SHARE). The program connects aging residents who need help around the home with adult home seekers who can provide help in exchange for low or no rent.
Aging homeowners with space to take on a tenant could use the program to find someone who can help with repairs in exchange for a place to live. That’s a win-win situation.
Who’s eligible: Philadelphia homeowners 60 years or older who have space for an extra person to live can join the network.
Making a home
Getting the repairs you need to live a full and thriving daily life can make all the difference. If you need repairs, review the programs we’ve compiled to see if there’s something that can help.
If you are an aging Philadelphia resident looking to skip repairs and sell your home, HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform can provide a cash offer on your home and take the stress and uncertainty out of selling.
Header Image Source: (Charl Folscher / Unsplash)
- "Measuring and Understanding Home Repair Costs," Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (September 2019)
- "Old homes, high poverty make Philadelphia housing less than affordable for some," WHYY (July 2018)
- CITY COUNCIL TACKLES GROWING PROBLEM OF SENIOR HOMELESSNESS," Philadelphia City Council (February 2022)