A Housing Study, commissioned several years ago by the City of Berlin, indicated the majority of the community’s housing stock is in poor condition and in need of either rehabilitation or removal. Of particular concern were the houses on Glen Avenue, as it is the primary approach to the downtown area and to the Great North Woods Region of New Hampshire, where many first impressions are created. After the Study, Berlin then hosted a PLAN NH design charrette and as a result the City of Berlin and the Berlin Housing Authority forged an alliance to design a housing rehabilitation program for the Gateway to the City.
The City of Berlin applied for and received $191,500 in CDBG Housing funds on behalf of the Berlin Housing Authority to rehabilitate twelve housing units on Glen Avenue to benefit one hundred percent low and moderate income families.
The Glen Avenue rehab was a community partnership project.
All units rehabilitated with CDBG funds meet HUD’s Section 8 Minimum Housing Quality Standards; the NH Life Safety Code; the NH Energy Code, and the City’s applicable building codes. The City provided matching funds in the amount of $200,000 for the replacement of the water lines that serve the project area.CDBG Housing funds were essential for this project, as the homeowners themselves were unable to take on the cost of the renovations. Many are elderly, disabled, or their current incomes would not sustain the needed rehabilitation improvement expenses.
CDFA talked to Kathleen McCosh, Construction Superintendent, Berlin Tri-County Community Action Program; Mary-Jo Landry, Executive Director Berlin Housing Authority; Mary Reardon, Home Owner; Faye Ruel, Daughter of Mary Reardon; and Rena Guerin, Home Owner about this project.
Were the improvements to your house significant?
Faye – This house and that house (pointing to another house), I think were the worst ones on the block. They rebuilt our house for us. It was so cool. We are really pleased.
Kathleen – It is pretty dramatic to see the before and after pictures. It had a mixture of different types of siding and of course with the new siding, roof, and windows made a huge difference.
The little things like planting gardens – lots of people commented on that. Everybody likes that.
Do you like the changes to your home?
Faye – I love it. Every time we took my mother out she would say, "Look at my poor house." It was in such sad shape. They did a miracle.
We would’ve never been able to do this with our own money. It meant so much to her. She is so happy with it. The handicapped bathroom is fantastic. It is so much easier for her to take a shower than trying to climb over that tub. We are really impressed.
Mary – I am very happy with it now.
What improvements were made in your house?
Kathleen – Rena Guerin needed a kitchen. We did all new cabinets, counter, sink, installed a dishwasher and fridge, kitchen window, and new floor on the kitchen and bathroom.
Rena – I got a call from someone wanting to know if I wanted smoke detectors with ten-year batteries. I told him I have hardwired fire detectors (laugh) – upstairs, downstairs and all over.
Kathleen – There was quite a bit that we did downstairs at Rena’s house. She had a complete rewire including hardwire smoke detectors. We redid the stairway. There was no rail, so we redid the railing. She had all peeled and plastic on the wall, so we re-dry walled that. Upstairs we stopped and dry walled the ceiling over the styrofoam that was here. We pieced in wherever it was falling, so the insulation would stay and we did the whole ceiling over again.
We also paid a painting contractor to paint the entire outside and we rebuilt the front porch. We did some vinyl siding in the back.
Rena – I really like my new kitchen. It’s a nice modern kitchen. I am happy with it. Even just changing the flooring is a big difference, because that other floor was down for 17 years. It is so much brighter. But, all of the houses are all nice.
Did you make energy efficiency improvements on the houses?
Kathleen – Yes, we combined our weatherization and PSNH utility funding. PSNH comes up with the money for energy conservation to combine with our weatherization money, so that sometimes we can replace windows and insulation. It’s a really nice package. In addition to the major rehab things that we did, we were also able to do a whole thing with the energy conservation projects.
Can you tell me a little more about how the construction was done with people living in the houses?
Mary-Jo – It’s not like people’s lives stand still just because we were doing a construction project. Construction is disruptive, because we had to work around the homeowners and tenants and they were trying to work around us. So, they were all very patient with us. No matter what they were going through, and some of them were going through some heavy stuff like health issues and trips to and from the doctors—it wasn’t easy.
Kathleen – We had to make it so that they can see that it’s worth it to get through the disruption too because it will be great when it’s done. I know I said many times – “This is going to be disruptive. It is going to be messy. There will be guys here early in the day. There will be people and trucks in and out.”
Is there anything that I haven’t asked, but you think people would like to know?
Faye – Most of the people on this street are all elderly. The crew that worked on this was great.
Kathleen – The Glen Avenue rehabilitation was a heavy use of sweat equity, because to get what the homeowners wanted they had to do work. Some things couldn’t be done within the constraints – financial and timeframe - of the project.