Over at the Wall Street Journal today, a great profile of Walter Mullins, a handy-with-tools retired banker who, for the past six years, has offered eight-week DIY home repair workshops to homeowners in a decrepit church gymnasium in Far Rockaway, Queens.
The skills taught by Mullins to his eager pupils are decidedly no-frills: Installing drywall, replacing toilets, tiling bathrooms, hanging ceiling fans, and the like — all things that many homeowners would recruit an electrician, plumber, or general contractor to perform. Initially a straightforward home improvement course, Mullins’ workshops have taken on a more foreclosure-centric focus in recent years as he tries to instill new homeowners, many of them struggling with delinquent mortgage payments, with the confidence to perform home repairs themselves so that they don’t have to seek often costly outside help from professionals. The cost-cutting DIY work in turn, saves the homeowner money, improves the value of their homes, and, in some cases, prevents the home from going into foreclosure.
That said, Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of urban planning at New York University, sees things a bit differently, claiming that “in this crisis, expenditure on maintenance has not driven people into foreclosure. Falling house prices, unemployment, and burdensome mortgage payments have driven people into foreclosure.”
Still, many of Mullins’ foreclosure-burdened students claim that the workshops are helping things along. Says Arlene Phipps, a Far Rockaway homeowner dealing with a particularly sticky mortgage mess: “I am still trying to make a positive out of a negative. It is a last bit of home.”
More over at the Wall Street Journal

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