The Board of County Commissioners spent a chunk of a special meeting last week on housing.
On the up side, commissioners tweaked the disbursement of funds for the neediest applicants under the Hurricane Housing Recovery Plan (HHRP).
However, on the down side, commissioners once again vented frustration with the lack of forward momentum on the housing front, particularly workforce housing and rehab assistance.
Commissioners approved moving $200,000 earmarked for households of very-low income out of District 5 to other districts.
The eligibility requirements for the money, which mirror those for the State Housing Initiative Program, left no eligible applicants in the South Gulf district.
Commissioners approved using $100,000 for low income eligible applicants and $100,000 on very-low income eligible applicants in Districts 1, 2 and 4.
Additionally, $46,000 that remains unspent for very-low income households in District 3 was moved to very-low income applicants in Districts 1, 2 and 4.
“I think it’s a good move,” said District 5 Commissioner Phil McCroan.
In part, the transfer also assists the county which is running a deficit on spending in the very-low income category.
The county must still spend more than $300,000 in that category county-wide to meet Florida Housing ratios.
County staff said they had received about $3.3 million of the money coming to the county and the HHRP, which will total nearly $6 million after the second phase of funding is disbursed.
A major problem in this initial phase has come on the rehabilitation side of the HHRP.
The problem is two-fold, one being a lack of manpower in the county’s SHIP office, which is administering the program, said Administrator Michael Hammond.
“They are getting overwhelmed,” Hammond said.
Last week the BOCC approved going out for proposals on a consultant to assist with sifting through the paperwork and process to qualify applicants for the program.
The other issue is contractors that are “picking and choosing the projects they’ll take and I don’t blame them,” McCroan said.
Costs are high and the rehab projects are unattractive for too many contractors, he said.
The county has had issues luring eligible contractors.
Further, under the HHRP rehab assistance is a certain percentage of a home’s value and in some cases, McCroan wondered if the caps were too low.
“The county does not want to get into the housing authority business,” Hammond said.
Hammond continued that the county had helped “a lot of people” with downpayment assistance, but that rehab was a problem he saw coming.
And the problem is throughout the area impacted by Hurricane Michael.
“The problem we’ve got to (solve) is the labor shortage,” Hammond said. “It’s not the caps that are the problem, I believe, it is the labor shortage.”
Hammond also expressed concern with the future and the potential for many who qualified for assistance to be foreclosed upon due to the interest rates on mortgage loans which the homeowner will ultimately be unable to pay.