Revitalization efforts help aging homes

Middle-class Plano residents may have more options when it comes to finding a home in their price range thanks to several programs aimed at revitalizing aging neighborhoods in the central and eastern parts of the city.

With salaries above what the U.S. Department of Housing and Development defines as low-income, middle-class residents are finding it difficult to purchase a home due in part to the lack of housing available that fits
their budget. In addition, many such residents make too much money to receive federal aid, Plano Neighborhood Services Director Lori Schwarz said.

“I think the challenge is that there is a lot of housing [in Plano], but it [either] isn’t necessarily in the condition that people want to purchase it in [or] it may not be in the price range that they want it to be in. If [a home] is in the price range, it may not be what they expected,” Schwarz said. “With this great amount of housing product that we have of a certain age and a certain size, we could meet a lot of that demand.”

According to a 2006 housing study conducted by the city, Plano defines workforce housing as homes for families earning between 80 and 120 percent of the area’s median income, or between $65,000 and $99,000. Some professions that fall into this broad category are police officers, firefighters, teachers and retail management workers, according to the study.

Revitalization efforts help aging homes“We have a large population in Plano where [households] are making … $99,000 [a year] who need to be able to afford their home and maintain it,” Community Services Manager Shanette Brown said. “That is why the City Council has put so much money into [its revitalization programs].”

Workforce housing needs

Ideally, housing should be available at prices and sizes suited to the labor force, according to the 2006 study. A lack of affordable housing can affect the economy by causing employees to move outside of Plano, according to the report.

The Plano Housing Corporation, Habitat for Humanity and Christ United Methodist Church are three local nonprofit organizations that support such revitalization efforts. In addition to building affordable housing for seniors and veterans, the Plano Housing Corporation also specializes in energy-efficient rehabilitation for older homes.

By creating more energy-efficient homes, these projects are saving older neighborhoods from decline and are helping the workforce population by keeping their energy bills low, said Jean Brown, executive director of the Plano Housing Corporation.

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“Every city in America right now has aging neighborhoods and how we address rehabilitation is to keep these neighborhoods sustainable,” she said. “If we don’t rehabilitate the property, they end up being rental properties. We’ve been seeing this here over and over for the past four or five years. [In addition,] if you don’t do the upgrades, people will move in and then find that they can’t afford the utilities.”

In with the old

Plano’s Great Update Rebate is one such program that offers assistance for renovations and other maintenance projects for moderately priced homes 35 years and older. It also allows investors to perform rehabilitation projects on applicable homes for resale.  More than 123 homes in Plano have benefited from the program since it started in April 2014.

“We’re in the process of a lot of change right now. We’ve got a lot of people who are moving out … and a lot of families are moving in,” Schwarz said. “We’re trying to get people to have community pride and … build that sense of connection.”

Love Where You Live projects have also helped to beautify these homes with the help of volunteers. In addition, Plano’s first-time homebuyers program and city grants specialize in guiding revitalization efforts in these older single-family neighborhoods.

Assistance programs like these are paramount to the lower- and middle-classes’ homeownership future, Brown said.

“There is a lack of understanding when it comes to affordable housing. [People] think affordable  housing is old, blighted apartment complexes or houses,” she said. “There is very little workforce housing, and our workforce is what keeps our economy going. We serve working families—you have to have a job and you have to have good credit in order to participate in these programs. It is not a handout.”