MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Some low and fixed income home owners, who are struggling with financing major home repairs, could get some assistance in Manatee County.
Starting this week through Jan. 28, families can apply for financial help for housing rehabilitation and replacement assistance from the Manatee County Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity (REO) Department.
The county, with the help of state funding, has made available nearly $1 million dollars specifically targeting much older homes; and county leaders are urging families to apply.
The program provides zero-percent interest-deferred payment 30-year loans to make code-related repairs to single-family homes or replace dilapidated single-family housing structures. Housing conditions can be corrected and modified to improve the health, safety and welfare for the people who live there.
The program, which includes education for down payment assistance, received one of its largest allocations of $2 million this year. The total funding of $904,344.80 is expected to help a dozen local households with home rehab and repairs. Twenty percent of the allocation is earmarked for households with special needs – with a maximum of $80,000 going to rehab and $180,000 going toward replacement.
"I feel good, I love it. I thank God for blessing me up to get it," said Margaret Washington of Rubonia.
At nearly 80, Washington was one of the beneficiaries who got a home rebuilt last year. Her original home on 71st Street, which she said was built for her when she was very young was falling apart and she was unable to afford the required repairs.
"The other one had gone down and it was leaking, it needed a roof put on," she said. Her son found out about the funding program and helped her with the application process. She was able to get a much spacious and more conducive home.
"I love my bedroom I have what I call my little suite for myself," she said.
"We do roofs, windows, electrical plumbing, we can do handicap accessible ramps, bathrooms, kitchens," said Deborah Ash.
Ash is the Housing and Community Development Coordinator for Manatee County's Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department. She says one of the key focuses of the funding program is improving the health, safety and welfare of families who can become vulnerable to homelessness or make rash decisions that can set them back significantly or cost them their home entirely due to financial pressure.
"We change peoples lives. We went to one house years ago and we had people having raccoons crawling around in their house from outdoors and they are living in that situation and it's really unbelievable," said Ash.
Funding for the program has been in existence since the early 90s, but county leaders said even though it is limited, many families are afraid to take advantage of what is available because there is the misperception that the government can take over their home.
The program has actually helped around 300 families like Ms. Washington's to not only get to keep their home and raise its value but to also be able to pass it on to the next generation when the time comes, according to Ash.
Qualifying Manatee County residents can submit entry forms through the Housing Rehabilitation/Replacement Program. Program entry forms are available on Manatee County's Rehabilitation/Replacement Program webpage. Those who need help completing and submitting an online entry form can call (941) 749-3029. The deadline for entry forms is 5 p.m. on Jan. 28. On Feb. 4, REO staff will use a lottery-style drawing to determine which applications to review first. Funding will be awarded to households that meet the eligibility requirements until all funds have been committed.
To be eligible, households must be located in unincorporated Manatee County or City of Palmetto and be within the program standards for very low/low income and property value. You can read eligibility requirements HERE.