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Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors®

GCAAR helps Yachad invest in the local community

Jan 10, 2024
Yachad uses GCAAR's support to help local D.C. homeowner.

Over the years, Yachad has worked with hundreds of families to remediate and rehabilitate their homes—making houses healthier and building greater wealth for homeowners. Every year there is always a few families where the work takes on a life of its own either through unexpected circumstances or a family is simply in need of greater support. Bernedette Cowan-Wilson was a special homeowner that Yachad worked with over this past year. GCAAR helped to make this work possible.

Bernedette Cowan-Wilson, Independence Avenue, SE

For 35 years, Bernadette Cowan-Wilson has lived with her family in her Capitol Hill home on Independence Avenue SE. She has watched the neighborhood change over the years. Homes like hers – over 100 years old -- are being flipped by investors as property values rise. Some of her neighbors have sold and moved out. Ms. Cowan-Wilson loves her community and has no plans to leave. She knew however, that the house needed repairs. “The second story deck on the back of my house was falling apart,” she said. “One side was leaning, and it looked like I lived in a haunted house.”

At church on a Sunday last year, Ms. Cowan-Wilson learned about programs to help DC homeowners repair their homes. “Sister Pearl gave me a package about the programs,” she said. “They sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot.”

Ms. Cowan-Wilson called the first two programs listed, but nobody answered or called her back. Undeterred, she called the next listing, which was the home repair initiative sponsored by Yachad, in partnership with Lydia’s House, a neighborhood organization. “A very lovely woman from Lydia’s House called me right back,” Ms. Cowan-Wilson explained. “She said Yachad would be a good fit for me.”

Ms. Cowan-Wilson applied for and was accepted into Yachad’s remediation services to fix her kitchen floor, to do electrical updates, and to repair minor plumbing problems. But as is often the case with older homes, seemingly straightforward repair tasks quickly became much more complicated. When workers pulled up the old kitchen flooring, they discovered an unhappy surprise. A slow water leak had saturated the entire wood joist support system. There was also extensive structural damage behind the kitchen walls.

“The kitchen floor was redone 10-15 years ago, but not laid properly,” Ms. Cowan-Wilson said. When Yachad lifted off the old flooring, “I literally had a pond under my kitchen floor. It was my own private beach.” But it was not a beach anyone would want to visit, she added. “Debris and beer cans were floating everywhere.”

Suddenly, Ms. Cowan-Wilson’s project was far larger in scope than anticipated, both financially for Yachad and for its contractor. The seeping water had caused mold to grow behind the kitchen cabinets. And because the leak was unknown for years and not a sudden accident, Ms. Wilson’s homeowner’s insurance claim was denied.

Yachad could not leave the home in this terrible situation, even though the work was far beyond the original and limited scope. One of Yachad’s corporate partners, Restorecore, a remediation company that works with insurance companies, offered to do the entire remediation work as a donation, and to rebuild the floor joists and replace the drywall at a heavily discounted price.

In early 2023, Yachad contractors, Dave Olfky and Ferdy Palacios replaced the damaged floor, the moldy kitchen drywall, and the cabinets and countertops. The second floor bathroom cast iron tub needed to be replaced along with the plumbing and tile. The hot water heater was shot, so Yachad replaced it too. For the first time in six months, Ms. Cowan-Wilson was able to take a hot shower in a newly refurbished bathroom

Yachad’s long-time partner, YouthBuild helped to take down the “haunted” deck and cleaned out the backyard.

“I was so grateful,” Ms. Cowan-Wilson said. “My house was a ticking time bomb, and I had no idea it was in such bad shape. Because a lot of the damage was hidden, and I couldn’t see it.”

Yachad’s investment in Ms. Cowan-Wilson’s home is helping to achieve both goals. Last September, her next-door neighbor’s home was sold and then converted into two condominium units. The two units sold for a combined price of $1.6 million.