Research Brief on Rising Home Repair Needs and Costs

August 9, 2023
by Melissa Stutzbach, Vice President of National Programs and Impact Measurement at Rebuilding Together National

Rebuilding Together believes that every American should have a safe and healthy home. Through our program evaluation, we’ve learned that the health of one’s home is directly correlated to mental and physical health. Unfortunately, so many of our neighbors across the country are in need of home repairs that they are unable to afford. Community Development Research Specialist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Eileen Divringi, recently published a research brief that gives an updated look at national and regional home repair costs in America. 

This most recent report is building on a previous report from 2019 that presented the first cost-based measure of home repair needs. Divringi found that although there was a modest decline in the prevalence of repair needs, “rising costs and growth in the number of occupied housing units increased the estimated cost of addressing physical housing deficiencies nationwide to $149.3 billion in 2022, an 18 percent nominal increase from the 2018 estimate.” The report goes on to state that these repair needs were concentrated among lower-income households, which accounted for an estimated $57.1 billion of that total. 

To capture this data, Divringi and her coauthors worked with Gordian, a firm that specializes in construction cost estimation. Together, they developed a custom repair costs data set using information from the biennial American Housing Survey (AHS). The report details that repair costs include the average cost of labor, materials, equipment and contractor overhead for specific interventions (e.g., fixing a broken window, replacing a broken heater, remediating mold, etc.).

Overall, the report shows that home repair costs in America have increased significantly in the past few years. Additionally, low-income individuals were nearly twice as likely to need persistent repairs. The report suggests that targeting home repair resources towards vulnerable populations, including low-income neighbors, is the most effective strategy. Rebuilding Together’s work is doing just that. Our affiliates are working in neighborhoods across the country–rural and urban–to assist low-income neighbors, families with children, veterans and survivors of disaster with essential home repairs. 

Download the full research brief conducted by Elieen Divringi and The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia here.