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Programs offer loans for home ownership

Officials okay two projects to help lower-income residents move into new mobile homes. But some worry the programs won't help in the long run.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published June 30, 2004

DADE CITY - If you're in the market to buy a new mobile home or replace your deteriorating one, you may be in luck.

The Pasco County Commission approved two loan programs Tuesday to help lower income residents get into new mobile homes.

One program will provide a low-interest loan of up to $45,000 to replace a dilapidated mobile home with a new one. The other program offers first-time home buyers a zero-interest loan of up to $10,000 for the down payment on a new mobile home.

"I think everybody has the right to have a home they can afford," Commissioner Pat Mulieri said at the meeting in the Historic Courthouse in Dade City.

Some commissioners wondered whether the program would help residents in the long run, however.

"Shouldn't we be encouraging people to buy a site-built home instead of a mobile home, which typically depreciates in value instead of appreciates in value?" asked Commissioner Ted Schrader, who cast the lone vote against both projects.

Commissioner Steve Simon shared that concern.

"Seven to 10 years into that mobile home, it's not worth a lot," Simon said. "For the long run, you haven't helped anybody - not financially, you haven't."

The county has similar loan programs to help lower income residents buy or replace their site-built homes. But some residents might not be able to afford the loans on a more expensive site-built home, or they simply prefer a mobile home, said George Romagnoli, the county's community development manager.

Ultimately the county faced a use-it-or-lose-it situation. Pasco gets about $1-million in federal HOME grants every year, plus between $500,000 and $800,000 in repaid loans, all of which go toward a variety of housing programs. Unless the county spends the money within a couple of years, it risks losing it.

"There's not much of a choice," said Simon, who reluctantly supported both mobile home programs.

One out of every four homes in Pasco County is a mobile home. With 43,700 units, Pasco County has the third-highest number of mobile homes in the state. About a third of those units predate 1980, Romagnoli said.

"The housing choices of the very low-income families are limited, and a new (site-built) home is really not an option for them," Romagnoli said.

In order to qualify for the funding, residents must earn less than 80 percent of the median income for this area. The cutoff for a family of four, for example, would be $40,950.

The funding is only available on lots less than 1.5 acres that are zoned for mobile homes.

Residents wanting to replace their old mobile homes must own the land they're on, and they must have lived there for at least a year.

Persons interested in either program may call the county's Community Development office at (727) 834-3445 in west Pasco; (813) 996-7341 ext. 3445 in central Pasco; or (352) 521-4274 ext. 3445 in east Pasco.

In other news

HUDSON DREDGING MOVES FORWARD: Commissioners awarded a $1.9-million contract to Subaqueous Services Inc. of Fort Lauderdale to dredge a 2.1-mile stretch of the Hudson Channel.

The work is scheduled to be done within the next six months. Officials have worked for more than two decades to get the funding and permits for the dredging project, which will deepen the channel so boats are not trapped at shore during low tides.

HOMELESS COALITION GETS A HAND: The commission also voted to hire an expert to help the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County apply for federal and state grants.

The all-volunteer group has had mixed success applying for grants, which involve complicated paperwork that includes a detailed plan for helping the county's homeless. Now Pasco County government will be responsible for compiling and updating that homeless plan, but the coalition will still decide how to spend the grant money and improve services.

- Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is hall@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 30, 2004, 01:00:40]


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