It’s been 10 years since Joy Freeman has used a bathtub. Thanks to a grant from the Rockdale Community Home Investment Program (CHIP), the Rockdale senior citizen can now safely soak in her brand new handicap-accessible bathtub.
“The last time I got in a bathtub I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get out,” said Freeman who uses a walker due to limited mobility. “Getting a walk-in bathtub was my favorite part of the home renovation project and now I can take baths like I used to.”
The Rockdale resident is among seven homeowners who received home rehabilitation funds and one new homeowner who received down payment assistance through the Rockdale CHIP grant.
Several elected officials, homeowners and program executives and partners attended a cake cutting ceremony on July 31 at the J.P. Carr Community Center in Conyers to celebrate the program’s successful completion.
“This is the second housing grant that Rockdale has received, but it is the first community home improvement program the county has received, so this was huge,” said Rockdale County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden.
Other programs, such as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), administered through the American Recovery Act of 2007, allows the county to sell affordable housing to eligible homebuyers through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed and abandoned homes whereas CHIP recipients are able to get assistance with costly home repairs and down payment assistance.
Oden said he made it top priority to seek local business to help get the job done.
One of the partners, CEO and President of EW Capital Management, Joel Elliott, said the project was a great success.
“It was a fantastic project. Some of the things we were able to do, the home owners would probably not have been able to do on their own. Most of the things we did were sustainable, making sure we made the homes energy efficient to reduce energy costs,” said Elliott.
Michelle Lewis from the Department of Community Affairs said that although the application process can be intimidating, she encourages all communities to apply when the application process reopens.
“In the long run, it is worth it to see homeowners who’ve never had air-conditioning receive AC units, roofing repairs, new appliances like stoves and refrigerators or even handicap-accessible home modifications such as lowered cabinets, wheelchair ramps, and widened doorways that all improve quality of living,” said Lewis.
Lewis said the DCA received an award of $10.2 million in April of this year and would be allocating all of the funding to CHIP in the next round of grant applications. Normally, CHIP receives around $3 million to be divided amongst several counties but is expanding the budget due to the large success of the program this year.
Tanesha Lanier, Rockdale CHIP program administrator, started the application process in October 2013 and was able to close out the grant in just five months with the help of Alice R. Cintron, Rockdale’s grants administrator. The grant, worth $306,000 was dispersed amongst eight homeowners. The average cost per home makeover was $42,000. Each applicant had to meet a variation of qualifications including income, census track location, overall cost to cure the property, property rehabilitation feasibility, property value being less than $124,000 and a host of other requirements.
“When I saw the finished product and the look on the homeowners’ faces, it literally brought tears to my eyes. Some of the smallest things we take for granted are things people in our community are suffering without daily,” said Lanier.
Local project partner, Valisa Shannon from Jewel of the South, said that the house they were assigned to was in such disrepair that the city questioned whether it would be better to just condemn the home.
“We were so thrilled that we were able to transform the home and convert it into a new house,” said Shannon.
Problems with plumbing, toxic lead painted walls, asbestos, and air-conditioning are commonplace for many of Rockdale’s homeowners in older homes. CHIP gives homeowners a chance to make the necessary repairs to stay in their homes.
CHIP recipient Aileen Gray had issues with her plumbing backing up the tub in her home’s hallway bathroom. The Rockdale school bus driver was not able to afford the expensive renovations needed to repair her home’s antiquated plumbing and was chosen as a CHIP recipient.
“I submitted my application some time ago and the work was well worth the wait,” said Gray. “Everyone worked together as a team and I want to say thank you and I appreciate the outcome.”