CHRIC begins celebration of 40 years of helping

Submitted Photo Pictured are members of the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation board of directors. From left: Patty Perlee, CHRIC board president; John Samuelson, CHRIC attorney; Barbara Hoitink, CHRIC board of director; Jim Barrett, CHRIC board of director; Carl Swan, CHRIC board treasurer; Richard Babbage, CHRIC board vice president; Fred Croscut, CHRIC board of director; Jessica Wojciechowicz, CHRIC board of director; Josh Freifeld, CHRIC executive director. Missing are Sylvia Faust and Carol White, CHRIC board of directors.

The Board of Directors and staff of Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation, CHRIC, recently kicked off a celebration of 40 years.

Chautauqua Home Re-habilitation and Improve-ment Corporation began in the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Development in 1977. Under County Executive Joe Gerace Sr., the Department of Planning and Develop-ment was led by the late John Luensman, county director of planning, and staffed by Emmet Norton, grant writer Carolyn Seymour, housing coordinator at the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board and Dr. Leonard Faulk Jr.

In January 1978, incorporation papers were signed by Mario Cuomo, New York state secretary of state, to create CHRIC, a private, nonprofit corporation. The mission of the new agency was to continue and expand the housing work that had previously been done by the staff of the County Department of Planning and Development. Soon after, CHRIC became the state’s first Rural Preservation Company, a statewide assembly of community-based housing corporations serving the unmet housing and community renewal needs of low and moderate income residents.

CHRIC Housing Rehabilitation programs

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, CHRIC assisted local citizens and private developers with securing state and federal funding to develop senior housing projects in Mayville, Silver Creek, Jamestown, Clymer, Bemus Point, Westfield, Sherman, Fredonia (Old Main), Sinclairville, Broc-ton and Frewsburg. CHRIC also secured public funding to undertake housing rehabilitation in private homes in Westfield and Falconer. In addition, CHRIC developed the “Independent Environments Program” in conjunction with the Office for the Aging and other social service agencies. This program continues to operate, designing and building wheelchair ramps, handicapped accessible bathrooms and other adaptations that make it possible for people with disabilities and seniors to continue to live independently in their homes.

Since then, housing rehabilitation has become a core activity for CHRIC. Over the past 20 years, CHRIC has brought over $21 million in federal, state and private grant funds into Chautauqua County to assist low-moderate income homeowners with necessary home repairs. A total of 2,070 separate grants awards have been made to homeowners throughout Chautauqua County during this time.

CHRIC has administered seven HUD-funded HOME awards, 12 New York State funded Affordable Housing Corporation awards, three U.S. Department of Agricul-ture Rural Development Housing Preservation Grant awards and eight privately funded New York Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Prog-ram awards, all of which allowed CHRIC to address the general repair needs of low-moderate income homeowners, such as roofs, windows, siding, and furnaces. CHRIC has also administered nine state-funded Residential Emerg-ency Services to Offer Repairs to the Elderly awards, which provide smaller emergency repairs to low-income seniors, and five state funded Access to Home awards, which provide home adaptation and modification work for people with disabilities and the frail elderly.

CHRIC also provides grant writing assistance to local municipalities seeking to secure grant funding for their communities through the HUD-funded Comm-unity Development Block Grant Program. When funding requests are successful, the municipality then contracts with CHRIC to administer and deliver these funds on behalf of the community. Since 1997, CHRIC has helped secure 32 block grants for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation programs in 12 different municipalities, including Brocton, Celoron, Charlotte, Chaut-auqua (Hartfield), Cherry Creek, Ellington, Gerry, Lakewood, Poland, and Villenova. CHRIC also assisted the county with grant writing for the Block Grant Program for five awards, including a program that provided assistance to first-time homebuyers followed by energy-related upgrades to the new home, one that provided general repairs for low-moderate income seniors, and three that provided assistance with repairs to pre-existing water wells and household septic systems. In addition, the city of Dunkirk contracted with CHRIC between 2000 and 2004 to administer and deliver the city’s Community Develop-ment Block Grant funding which it receives on an annual basis from HUD.

CHRIC has also assisted the county with grant writing services to secure HUD Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control funding. Since 1997, CHRIC has helped the county secure five separate awards totaling over $11 million. The county entered into an agreement with CHRIC for each of these awards to administer and deliver the funds to eligible households. The Lead Safe County program has remediated 945 homes, primarily rental units, providing kids with safe homes in which to grow. CHRIC is currently administering the county’s fifth award. In addition to Lead Safe County, CHRIC has administered three NYS Rental Rehab HOME Awards providing a total investment of $919,998 and one city of Dunkirk CDBG Rental Rehab Award total investment of $215,874. These grants have helped rehab a total of 122 rental units county-wide.

CHRIC moved into the 21st century with energy and anticipation of an increased ability to meet the needs of county residents as a long-sought goal to bring the resources of the Neighborhood Reinvest-ment Corporation to the county was finally realized. CHRIC was formally chartered as a NeighborWorks America Organization on Feb. 25, 2003.

In addition to its housing rehabilitation programs, CHRIC has completed three successful Youthbuild programs over the past 20 years, providing high school equivalency and job skill training to at-risk young adults; a Foreclosure Prev-ention Counseling program; loan programs including the Family Loan Program and JobStart Loan Program; Welfare to Work programs; and transportation programs such as “Earna Car” and others that provided financial assistance with car repairs and purchase to people who needed transportation for work-related purposes. CHRIC also administered a Tenant Based Rent Assistance Program.

Since 2000, CHRIC has branched out to help municipalities seek funding for community development projects such as Main Street revitalization programs and historic preservation efforts, as well as developing a homeownership education program for first-time homebuyers and an acquisition, rehab & resale program. CHRIC will provide more details on these programs in the coming months.

Patricia Perlee is president of CHRIC’s Board of Directors, vice president is Richard Babbage and treasurer is Carl Swan. Board members are James Barrett, Fred Croscut, Sylvia Faust, Barbara Hoitink, Carol White and Jessica Wojciechowicz. Original attorney John R. Samuelson continues to serve as CHRIC’s attorney and Joshua Freifeld is CHRIC’s executive director.