Habitat changes policy on rental renovations

  • Community project: young Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda volunteers work at a site in Pembroke (Photograph supplied)

    Community project: young Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda volunteers work at a site in Pembroke (Photograph supplied)

A new partnership built between landlords and an island charity will mean rundown rented homes can be repaired.

Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity Bermuda, said: “Over the past few years we have come across so many homes and especially apartments in desperate need of repair that were occupied by tenants.”

She was speaking after the charity introduced a new policy last year that allowed tenants to benefit from its renovation projects as well as homeowners.

A trial was successful and the programme is now expected to be expanded.

Ms Cooper said: “Ordinarily these properties would not fit the criteria for Habitat help because the applicant was a tenant rather than the homeowner.

“We struggled with this for some time and last year we piloted a new approach which involves a contract between Habitat and the landlord of the property ensuring a continued reasonable rent, or even a reduction in rent, for a specified period after renovations are complete.

“Other variations include a repayment plan in which a portion of the rent going forward is assigned to Habitat to cover the renovation costs.”

Ms Cooper added: “In either case, there are clear conditions put in place to ensure that the landlord does not exploit the generosity of Habitat by increasing the rent once the property is upgraded.

She said 2018 was “another banner year” for the charity which exceeded its annual goal of 12 projects with 15 homes renovated.

Ms Cooper said: “All but one of the projects were completed pro bono with the use of a great deal of volunteer labour and generous contributions from building supply companies.

“Everyone who has done renovations knows just how tricky these things can be as one never really knows for sure what one will encounter.”

The island charity is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, which was founded in the United States in 1976 and has built or repaired more than 400,000 homes for families around the world.

It was established in Bermuda in 2000 to address the need for good, affordable housing and its target is to restore neighbourhoods with refurbishments to one property at a time.

Habitat for Humanity fixes common problems like leaky roofs, mould, broken windows and doors, as well as major electrical or plumbing troubles that can lead to hazardous living conditions.

Ms Cooper said people often asked why “Habitat project” signs are not put up at sites on the island where the charity is carrying out its work, in the same way as they are in the US and Canada.

Ms Cooper explained: “We don’t do that here out of respect for the privacy of our ‘partner families’.”

Ms Cooper emphasised the charity works only in Bermuda as there had been confusion with other organisations that do “wonderful work” abroad.

She added: “We just feel that the need is so great here that we have plenty on our plate.

“In 2020, Habitat will have been repairing homes in Bermuda for 20 years and we remain an all volunteer organisation with no paid staff, so every donor dollar goes directly into one of our projects.

“We do, however, need to pay for skilled labour such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and masons, so we are appealing to folks who have those skills to come forward and donate even a few hours of their time to extend this important work in our community.”

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Published Feb 5, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 5, 2019 at 7:41 am)

Habitat changes policy on rental renovations

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