Millions available for low-income homeowners

By Jana Eschbach

(WFLX) - It may come late, but it is millions of dollars many of you can get your hands on to fix or even build a new home if you sustained damage from Hurricane Wilma.

If you were here in October 2005 you remember the shock of the damage done by Hurricane Wilma.  But it was a year later Albert Brinkley and his daughter began to suffer from toxic mold growing inside their Stuart home.

"When we moved out I felt the difference from all that mold and mildew," Brinkley said, "I called my insurance but they would not cover the costs."

Albert applied to get access to federal disaster grants through Martin County. Community Services cut him a check for $78,798.01.

"That was a blessing in itself," said Brinkley, "With Martin County having that money, it was a great opportunity to not worry about how the insurance was going to deal with it."

He took the money and leveled his moldy home. Then Brinkley built his dream Dolphin Fan home, coated in the team's aqua paint and bright orange trim on Central Avenue in East Stuart.  He and his daughter say they no longfer suffer from asthma and feel healthier.

"Go fill out the application because there's so many people that are in need," Brinkley said.

In fact, the average low-income homeowner is given $40,000 and up. Mobile homes in need of repair built before 1997 are replaced with a new manufactured home. Paid for entirely with the grant money.

"$40,000 and up, and, of course, if there's only a thousand dollars in damage we are more than willing to fix that as well," said Martin County Community Development Director Jeffrey Oris, who is having trouble getting word out the money is available. "What we are required to do under this grant is completly replace a home or rehab it to sufficient legal standards. So it could be whatever it costs."

Here's how it works:

1. You must live in the county where you apply and you must own your home.

2. You must qualify as low income. In Martin County, that means a single person making less than $30,600.

3. You must able to document you need repairs or a home replacement from Wilma.

'It's gotta be Wilma and the biggest problem is its 2 1/2 years later," said Oris.

4. You must not have been fully-compensated by your insurance or FEMA. They will pay for costs or increased costs for repairs not covered by your insurance or FEMA.

County governments have plenty to give out.

"We have about $1.5 million from this particular program," Oris said,"The money comes late because there's been a lot of bureacracy involved in these dollars. They have been talked about for over a year and a half before the county got the go-ahead agreement to spend these monies."  If the county does not dispurse the funds in the coming months, the money gets sent back to Washington.

"Nobody told me how I had to do it, they just helped me do it with this money," Brinkley said. If he lives in the home for 10 years, he does not have to pay the county back. Under the new grant, residency restrictions may apply as well.

"I am hoping it will help single moms and dads like myself.. low-income families to rebuild the community. just fill out an application!" Brinkley said, but then thought for a moment what others would build, "Maybe not a Dolphin's house. I have a Dolphin house--no copycats nobody! But I just hope someone takes advantage of this and has them a dream home too."

Do You Qualify as Low-Income?

The scale is set up by people per household.

You must make less than income for # of persons in household listed below to be considered eligible.

1 person $30,600

2 persons $34,950

3 persons $39,350

4 persons $43,700

5 persons $47,200

6 persons $50,700

7 person $54,200

8 person $57,700

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Martin County, Housing Specialist Brenda Koncoski: 772-288-5495

http://www.martin.fl.us/web_docs/gmd/web/ship/aid_Ship/100_HHRP_Application.PDF

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Palm Beach County:

Commission on Affordable Housing

160 Australian Avenue, 5th Floor

West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Telephone: (561) 233-3660

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Restoration and Mitigiation funds over $2,000,000 in St. Lucie County:

(772) 462-1290