Desperate for home repairs, county provides grants
The new program offers as much as $20,000 and is aimed at those in eastern Lealman, Ridgecrest and part of Tarpon Springs.
By ANNE LINDBERG
Published April 12, 2006
LEALMAN - County officials are so eager to make sure that homes in certain areas of Pinellas are kept up that they're willing to give away money to do it.
The Senior Home Improvement Grant Program is a new initiative directed at homeowners age 62 and older in eastern Lealman, Ridgecrest and the Union Academy area of Tarpon Springs. The grants - as much as $20,000 - are designed to help homeowners pay for major repairs, such as roofs, electrical upgrades and plumbing.
Homeowners would have to pay for the cost of repairs that exceed the maximum grant, although county officials may help them find low-interest loans.
"This is a great opportunity," said Frank Bowman, a senior community planning specialist for the county.
While the program is directed at seniors on fixed incomes, Bowman said county staff members hoped that the home improvements will prompt others in those neighborhoods to refurbish their homes. That would help the redevelopment efforts in those areas, he said.
"You fix two or three or four houses on a block, (and) the rest mysteriously get fixed on their own," Bowman said.
The program is the brainchild of staff members at the Pinellas County Department of Community Development. Bowman said staff members who go into the field and code officers had horror stories about the difficulties faced by some elderly homeowners who were unable to pay for everyday items, such as lighting, much less repair their homes.
The funds are coming from the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program.
The county began accepting applications April 1 and will continue to take them through May 31.
"We're getting bombarded with applications," said Joyce Collazo, a senior community planning specialist with the county's Community Development Office.
But there's no need to worry that the money will run out, she said. Everyone who meets the requirements will get the funds.
After an initial review, the county will forward the applications to a nonprofit agency that will ensure that the applicants meet the eligibility requirements.
The applicant must be the home- owner and must be current on property taxes and have no outstanding liens to the IRS. The just value of the property cannot exceed $151,000, according to records from the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office. There are also income limits.
"You just need those ... things, and you've got a $20,000 grant," Collazo said. "It's a very wonderful, simple program."
For information or an application, contact the Pinellas County Community Development Office, 600 Cleveland St., Suite 800, Clearwater, or call (727) 464-8210.
[Last modified April 12, 2006, 08:14:22]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]