—Armando Rios – Housing Programs Specialist
Fix It First turns three this month. With it being winter and not a prime building season, we now have time to sit down and reflect on the accomplishments Fix It First has achieved over the last three years. Everyone likes to hear about achievements and accomplishments, and though cliché, Epicenter and Fix It First could not have done it without all of the great people who have spent their time making the program succeed. We are proud to work with enthusiastic and energetic people to create affordable housing solutions for Green River.
Fix It First was developed in response to the City of Green River’s 2012 Housing Plan which revealed that 46% of Green River homes are in need of repairs. The program officially began on January 18, 2013, when the first project was completed, while the program was initiated in October 2012 when Bike & Build awarded Epicenter $10,000. The grant is the largest amount that Bike & Build awards; the funds were utilized to begin a revolving loan fund. At this point Epicenter had the ability to purchase the materials necessary to do home repairs. This was the pivotal moment when the first steps were taken to develop the program.
Armando Rios, an AmeriCorps VISTA at the time, shadowed David Woodman at ASSIST in Salt Lake City; Dave manages ASSIST’s Emergency Home Repair program, which served as a model for Epicenter’s Fix It First program. The other model was Habitat for Humanity’s A Brush With Kindness program, which has plenty of experience doing repairs and success stories throughout the nation.
Over the years we have been able to further develop “the gears” of the program, collecting data on what materials were used on a project, what extra materials were required to be purchased, hours spent planning and constructing, and repayment timelines. We now have a collection of specialized tools, and our construction knowledge base has grown to allow us to predict what sort of problems we will potentially encounter. With each project, the program’s efficiency and client satisfaction improves. All of us can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Through Fix It First, we’ve directly impacted 74 Green River residents completing 32 home repairs. With additional grants along with the repayments of loans by clients, we’ve invested a total of $52,491 in improving the housing stock in Green River, addressing issues on 31 homes in the last three years. We’re proud of the fact that 23 projects have been paid off, and the remaining nine have a 0% delinquency rate on their monthly payments. By the end of 2015, Fix It First clients had paid back $29,353 through affordable, low-interest monthly payments.
The projects completed to-date have addressed housing burden issues in 14.6% of the 212 homes identified in the 2012 Green River Housing Plan as in need of repairs. The momentum is there to reach the goal of eliminating all housing burdens in Green River, and that drive to improve quality of life for all Green River residents has been noticed by other private foundations. Our local electrical company, Rocky Mountain Power, awarded a $5,000 grant through their philanthropic foundation for use on home repair projects focusing on improving energy efficiency. The Sorenson Legacy Foundation pitched in $1,500 from a broader grant funding many of Epicenter’s programs. The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation jumped in too, awarding $10,334 in 2015 for both Fix It First and in support of our efforts of researching and planning new multi-family housing development.
This new year will bring even more investment into Green River’s housing stock and alleviate burdens for local residents. For 2016, we’ve set a goal of 15 new projects, along with 10 additional small interventions to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in mobile homes.
For more information on Fix It First or to donate to the project, please call (435) 564-3330 or visit Epicenter at 180 S. Broadway, Green River, Utah.