Wednesday, February 20, 2013

35 Years of Preserving and Rehabilitating New York’s Rural Communities

This blog is part of our 35th Anniversary Celebration series, highlighting NeighborWorks member organizations which are celebrating milestone years marking either their membership in the network or their incorporation as an organization. Last month, Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation celebrated their 35th year since incorporation. 

By Brittany Hutson, NeighborWorks
America Public Relations fellow
For 35 years, the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation (CHRIC), located in Mayville, New York, has rehabbed thousands of homes in Chautauqua County. Chautauqua is a low-income rural county situated in southwestern New York. The county has a population of over 126,000 and is a tourist area that offers grape vineyards, wine trails, ski resorts, and fishing in Chautauqua Lake. According to Staci Bemis, housing rehab coordinator for CHRIC, Chautauqua County holds the oldest housing stock in the country, and this has presented a bevy of rehab projects for the organization. CHRIC’s achievements include the completion of nearly 2,700 homes from 1990 to 2011, an approximate value of $25.5 million in housing rehab funds. This was accomplished in spite of the various challenges brought on by the recent recession, such as decreasing housing values, job losses and population loss.

Though rehabilitation is the organization’s largest line of business, CHRIC also offers foreclosure and homeownership counseling, lending, and has been involved in historic preservation and downtown community development projects, including a five-year rehabilitation project on a lighthouse situated on Lake Erie in the city of Dunkirk.
A property before rehabilitation
After CHRIC performed rehab work

CHRIC’s dedication to rehabilitation has made a difference in the lives of numerous local families. For example, the organization received a home through donation in 1998. The home was one of CHRIC’s rehab projects and in 2008, the organization was able to place a family of eight in the home after counseling through CHRIC’s Home Buyers Club. “This was a family who really had been experiencing pretty severe housing needs,” says Jim Goodling, executive director from late 2011 to January 2013. He also recalls assisting a family in which the father worked full time as a janitor and the mother stayed at home to tend to her two mentally and physically disabled girls. Through their counseling program, CHRIC helped the family become homeowners and reduce their monthly expenditures. “That’s indicative of the kind of work that we do.”

CHRIC’s rehabilitation service is in high demand these days and it has been challenging to keep up with requests. “There are nearly 465 families on our waiting list,” says Goodling. “We can address only a small part of those requests in any given year.” Funding is one of the biggest constraints. However, Goodling believes that being a charter member of NeighborWorks has been helpful to CHRIC. Funding from NeighborWorks, along with other federal sources and state contributions, has enabled CHRIC to undertake its “buy, rehab, and sell” housing program. Funding has also provided a basis for their loan and mortgage programs.

Learn more about CHRIC at