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Low-income Hernando residents get new homes, renovations

June Libby watches as Steve Myers of Beltz & Sons Septic Tank Service searches for her tank to drain it before her home is razed. Libby is getting a grant for contractor David Durden, center, to tear down her old home and build a new one.

RON THOMPSON | Times

June Libby watches as Steve Myers of Beltz & Sons Septic Tank Service searches for her tank to drain it before her home is razed. Libby is getting a grant for contractor David Durden, center, to tear down her old home and build a new one.

BROOKSVILLE — Behind a rusty wrought-iron gate on Lake Lindsey Road has sat a little brown and white house that June Libby called home.

The former paralegal and caretaker paid to have the tiny two-bedroom house moved from Land O'Lakes in 1981, just before it was to be demolished. She got it for free.

"It was a good little house while it lasted," Libby said, standing in the front yard last week. As she spoke, Gainesville contractor David Durden walked through the grass, taking care of last-minute details before razing the structure.

Thanks to a grant offered through the Hernando County Health and Human Services Department, Libby is going to get a new home.

Last winter, the county resident applied to participate in the Community Development Block Grant and State Housing Initiative Partnership home rehabilitation program. The project helps homeowners with improvements.

Since 1998, the county has received grants for the program every two years. With a $250,000 match from the county housing authority, the $750,000 grant goes far in a county where many residents have homes in need of improvements.

Libby is one of about 35 Hernando homeowners benefiting from the 2007 grant cycle, said Jean Rags, director of the Health and Human Services Department. In all, an estimated 150 homes will be or have been renovated or rebuilt.

As more and more people have learned about the grant, applications have increased, Rags said.

To qualify, a resident must be a homeowner and live in the home as his or her primary residence. Along with being in an unincorporated part of the county — outside the cities of Brooksville and Weeki Wachee — applicants must have a total household income below certain guidelines.

Once an application is submitted, it is reviewed and ranked by a board that then visits the homes. After homes are chosen, the work begins. The county works only with previously certified contractors.

Rags said the grant helps both homeowners and the county. By targeting primarily low-income elderly or disabled individuals in homes with safety and health issues, those chosen are able to stay in their homes and get the help they need.

The home improvements also serve to increase the worth of the house, and the county's tax base, Rags said. Homeowners are prepped on what to expect with their new and improved homes, such as paying more taxes, and must also agree to a few stipulations.

For example, grant recipients must live in their house for a certain amount of time before selling. If not, then a portion of the improvements must be repaid.

Libby found out that she had been chosen for the grant last spring. The thought of having the leaky roof fixed was a dream. A tree came crashing down on the bedroom while she slept several years ago.

Some of the hard-to-replace windows were also broken. Libby had one covered with aluminum foil. And the heating and cooling system didn't work well.

When she was told that she'd be getting an entirely new home, she was shocked. Inspectors determined that her house needed to be demolished. Libby expects to be settled into her new place before Christmas.

As someone who has taken care of other people for most of her life — she worked 12 years at Legal Aid in Tampa and helped care for sick friends — Libby can't wait to move in to her new digs.

"I never really believed that what goes around comes around," Libby said. "But it certainly has come around for me."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.

>>to learn more

Housing help

For more information about the Community Development Block Grant, call the Hernando Health and Human Services office at 540-4338, or go to the department's Web site at www.co.hernando.fl.us/HealthandHumanServices.

Low-income Hernando residents get new homes, renovations 08/10/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 3:41pm]
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