City leaders are making some changes that should have been made a long time ago to a home rehabilitation program to ensure the work performed is good, quality work.

Muskogee’s Housing Rehabilitation and Neighborhood Redevelopment Program has been working on repairs on residents' homes for more than a dozen years, and the quality of the work recently came into question. In-house inspections also became a concern, so an independent inspector was hired, which was a good first step.

The program provides up to $20,000 worth of exterior repairs for homeowners with household incomes that meet eligibility guidelines. The program is funded by grants, overseen by city planners, and the work is competitively bid to third-party contractors. Homeowners are required to place a lien on the title of their home that subjects the property to additional scrutiny by code inspectors for a period of five years.

“They’ve given up everything on the side of the homeowners — if you invest $20,000 and I get a five-year (lien) attached to my home, I want my home to be right,” said Ward IV Councilor Traci McGee. “If you come and give me substandard housing, then that’s unfair — you tore off my roof and put another roof up, but you didn’t even do the roof right.”

The City of Muskogee Foundation has invested millions in the program. As of 2018, improvements worth more than $4.01 million had been made to 243 structures within the original townsite, where the oldest houses exist.

That's a lot of money doled out on projects that may not be worth the money spent if the work is shoddy.

McGee said it is imperative that city councilors be good stewards of taxpayer funds and grants to ensure the program is carried out as intended, and we agree — someone should be responsible for making sure rehabilitation of residents' homes is done correctly.

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