This story appeared in the March issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
The Preservation Resource Center’s newest program, Revival Grants, turned one last November. The anniversary was without fanfare, as so many milestones have been during this pandemic time. But it hardly mattered. What did matter was that homeowners were being helped, one project at a time, throughout a year that brought so much extra hardship to so many.
For that, I am very proud and grateful. Revival Grants is a program in which the PRC gives free home repairs to low-income homeowners in historic districts. We launched the initiative in Tremé, and we focus on repairing historic houses and resolving homeowners’ violations that pertain to the city’s historic district code.
The goal is to provide simple repairs now with the hope of longer-term gains in the future. We fix people’s homes so they will be safer and more comfortable, while also helping the homeowners to get back into compliance with the city so that they don’t have continued violations or fines. But our hope is, ultimately, that this assistance allows these long-term residents to remain in their homes and their neighborhoods longer. In order for our city to thrive, its residents must have housing security. This program is playing a small role, we hope, in allowing residents of historic districts to stay in their homes, and continue building generational wealth in their families.
Our initial funding sources, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the 1772 Foundation, Hancock Whitney Bank and others, signed on to the idea before the first nail was driven. Today, thanks to them, eight projects have been completed to help homeowners with a multitude of issues, including replacing deteriorating porches and columns, restoring rotting windows and sealing them tight, painting, gutter installation and general maintenance.
So far, all of the homeowners have been elderly residents on a fixed income who wouldn’t have been able to afford to fix their houses. Though several of the homeowners are handy and have done wonderful work maintaining their homes as best as possible, this extra push was what they needed to get back into compliance with the city’s historic district regulations.
This program was planned and executed in close partnership with the City of New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission. The HDLC staff has been great partners in making sure that PRC can best serve homeowners with violations, and leave no stones unturned as we repair people’s houses.
For some homeowners, we were able to take their HDLC violation notice and use it like a project work scope, fixing every issue and getting the homeowner fully in compliance with the city. For others, the needed repairs are so extensive that we were not able to address every issue, but we got a great start working on the most pressing problems in this first round of funding. We hope to return to these houses to continue work when we get additional funding.
For all of the homeowners we have served so far, we have been able to tack on a little “lagniappe” to their repairs. We have provided several termite treatments and paid for termite contracts for a few years to keep the houses from becoming a termite feast. For one woman, her kitchen faucet had been spewing black water for years after a contractor installed a water filtration system post-Katrina, and then the company went out of business. PRC corrected the issue. To bring clean water into her kitchen once more was a blessing for her — and for us.
We’ve also had new funding show up along the way. A wonderful donor paid, through his family’s foundation, to restore six rotting wood windows for a homeowner who is a veteran. Window restoration is expensive. Thanks to the donor’s generosity, our homeowner now has beautiful, secure windows that will better insulate her home for years to come — and better protect her in inclement weather. We were also grateful to receive a grant from the Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank, to provide repairs after Hurricane Zeta to three homes, including one that needed a new roof after the Category 3 storm ripped through New Orleans last fall.
We’re indebted to our grantors and donors for making these critical home repairs possible. But we’re also looking for new funding sources to help us expand beyond Tremé to serve neighborhoods across the city. Donors can sponsor a home, a whole block or the repair of a single window — every little bit matters. Please spread the word and help us protect homeowners whose lives make our neighborhoods so rich, and who deserve the ability to pass their homes on to the next generation.
Our program is entering a new phase as our inaugural program manager, Amelia Yates, moves on. I want to thank Amelia sincerely for more than a year of complicated work standing up this program and making it so successful, despite a pandemic and many other challenges that came her way. She truly excelled managing the Revival Grants program, and the PRC, and the homeowners we served, benefited from her dedication. Thank you, Amelia. She leaves us with plenty of work in the queue – eight more houses, to be exact, where work is ready to be started. We can’t wait.
Danielle Del Sol is the Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center.
To donate to the Revival Grants program, visit our donations page and select “Revival Grants” from the drop-down designation menu.