The county hopes to turn at least $8 million in federal dollars into as many as 100 single-family homes for workforce housing.
The Board of County Commissioners, during a special meeting Tuesday, adopted a Disaster Affordable Housing Program to be seeded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The program is one the county has been urged by federal, state and region officials to adopt to open a revenue stream to help rebuild the housing sector for those of low and moderate income that was wiped out nearly eight months ago by Hurricane Michael.
“This is a workforce housing program,” said County Administrator Michael Hammond. “This is for a couple, or individuals, who already have a good job and earn a decent wage. Teachers, law enforcement … and the basic requirement is they live in the house and make the mortgage payments.”
The county will apply for $8 million in federal HUD disaster housing funds.
There is currently $440 million available with another pot of money to be established once Congress approves disaster funding for Hurricane Michael.
Once awarded the dollars, the county will move ahead with creating a waiting list for eligible applicants who have no other economic options but have a decent salary and the ability to make mortgage payments.
Eligibility would be based on a set of criteria drafted into the plan such as the current living status, disability, homelessness, income to sustain a mortgage payment and down the line.
Points will be assigned to determine eligibility for assistance; first responders and veterans will earn additional points, said Lynn Lanier with Hammond’s office, adding the emphasis was on a fair and open process.
Individuals would be eligible for up to $80,000 to be used toward the purchase of a home that could be priced no higher than 90 percent of the average purchase price for a home in that area.
The $80,000 is to be used for down payment assistance or to cover mortgage closing costs, Hammond said, and would be provided by the county on a 10-year, interest-free note.
The plan includes a host of provisions under which the county may subordinate its loan on the home to facilitate the purchase as well as provisions to enforce the county’s position.
Hammond noted that those who already own a lot on which to build will be able to keep costs lower, but, as an example, with a median-priced home in Gulf County, a mortgage payment could be held to $750-$800 instead of a $1,000 or $1,500 rental payment.
The potential buyers would also be required to take a homebuyer education class.
The county, Hammond said, will also move on a parallel track to establish an inventory of potentially available lots around the county on which homes could be built.
“This is truly affordable housing,” said Jim McKnight, executive director of the county’s Economic Development Coalition.
Commission chair Commissioner Sandy Quinn, Jr., said characterized the program as a “home run for Gulf County to help these families.”
The county should receive approval later this week on another revenue stream to assist low and very-low income residents.
Through the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) the county is in line to receive $4 million to assist with rehab projects or down payment assistance for the neediest residents in the county.
“I think we can help a lot of people in the community,” Lanier said.
The SHIP dollars would be beyond the larger-than-normal annual allocation of $800,000 from SHIP which allowed the county to find modular housing for a half dozen veterans, all of whom lived on the north end of the county.
In a typical year, the county receives $350,000 or so in SHIP funds.