California’s Earthquake Brace and Bolt program provides $3,000 grants to homeowners completing improvements to safeguard their home against earthquakes.

The program is meant to help homeowners perform improvements to keep their home from sliding off its foundation during an earthquake. These improvements include:

  • strengthening the home’s cripple wall by installing plywood to strengthen the wood structure that surrounds the crawl space in some homes;
  • installing bolts and sill plates in the home’s crawl space to strengthen the connection between the concrete foundation and the home’s wood framing; and
  • strapping and bracing the home’s water heater to both protect the home’s water supply and reduce the chances of water and fire damage during an earthquake.

Since these improvements are not mandatory and don’t contribute to the aesthetic value of a home, they are easily overlooked by most homeowners. Add to that the high price tag, and the earthquake safety improvements might never be made — without a boost from the program.

When homeowners are aware of the program — and the need to make the improvements — the program’s $3,000 grants can go a long way toward helping homeowners make necessary retrofits. However, the average cost is in in the range of $3,000-$7,000. Thus, the grants do not usually cover the full cost of improvements.

A new law attempts to extend these funds, and to get the word out about their availability.

AB 548 was recently passed to much support, specifically to help low-income homeowners retrofit their homes.

Under the bill, the Brace and Bolt program will be required to set aside 10% of its funds to make separate grants to low-income homeowners, in addition to the funds the low-income homeowners will already receive under the program. Together, the new law will help qualifying low-income homeowners receive up to 90% of the needed funds remaining to complete the safety improvements.

Eligible homes are:

  • in need of the necessary retrofits;
  • located in a pre-approved zip code (found here);
  • built before 1980 and sit on a level ground or low slope;
  • detached, one-to-four unit residential units;
  • new to the program, having not already received funds for a previous improvement from the program; and
  • not on the National Register of Historic Places.

The new law also requires the California Residential Mitigation Program — a joint effort between the California Earthquake Authority and the Office of Emergency Services — to provide outreach to eligible low-income homeowners about the funds available.

Real estate professionals: share information about earthquake safety with your clients with this free FARM Letter: Earthquake safety tips.