Pinellas County officials are encouraging homeowners to apply for a program that offers no-interest loans for home upgrades.
The Home Repair Loan Program provides up to $55,000 for a range of home repairs, including roofs, windows, exterior doors, HVAC and code-related electrical work. The program offers interest-free, deferred payment or amortized loans based on household income.
“Primarily, we focus on hurricane mitigation items,” said Rebecca Crisp, Community Development Specialist with Pinellas County’s Housing and Community Development department. “We’ve had quite a few people who, without this program, would not have been able to get those types of repairs because their income just doesn’t allow it.”
To be eligible, the home must be the applicant’s primary residence, and the Property Appraiser Just Value cannot exceed $375,000. The program, which is funded by the State, is available in unincorporated Pinellas and most cities in the county, with the exception of Belleair Shore, Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg, which Crisp said operate their own programs. Income limits apply, with the maximum income for an individual set at $48,650 and a family of four at $69,500. Higher limits apply for homes within the Lealman CRA.
Crisp said a lot of residents who’ve taken part in the program are on a fixed income, like Social Security.
“Because of our income thresholds, we can also help what I tend to refer to as the lower middle class,” said Crisp. “They make too much money to qualify for most programs, but they don’t make enough money to really keep themselves going on some of these things like a home purchase that is going to require more maintenance.”
Crisp added that beyond enhancing the safety of residents’ homes, the home loan program contributes to the community by enhancing the visual appeal of neighborhoods and keeping people in their homes longer.
“We want to help people stay in those homes longer so that there’s not that turnover of selling homes, people losing homes, maybe not being able to afford the repairs and losing their insurance, going into foreclosure,” Crisp said. “It’s a domino effect, so we feel like starting at the beginning and giving people options to repair their home gives them a better chance of staying in the long run.”
In addition to the loan program, an Accessibility Grant of up to $10,000 is available for modifications such as grab bars, walk-in showers, wheelchair ramps and door widening. The Pinellas County employees who operate the program are hoping more homeowners will apply for both the Accessibility Grant and the Home Repair Loan Program in the new year.
“We have plenty of money to spend right now, so we would like to start helping some more people,” said Crisp. “’I’m hoping that we can start getting some people in before hurricane season, because once hurricane season starts, it’s a little bit more of a time crunch to get roofs and things like that done. The sooner we can get people in, the sooner their house can be preserved in case we do get hit next year with another storm.”