Hillsborough looking for ways to tackle drywall problem

TAMPA — Mobile homes and recreational vehicles soon could be parked next to permanent homes in Hillsborough County, as residents rid their residences of defective Chinese drywall.

And federal grants may pay for some of the work.

Commissioners are considering a change to the county's temporary housing ordinance to allow temporary housing for "non-natural" disasters, including the drywall debacle.

They learned this week that community development block grant money could be used to fix homes built with the defective product.

Public hearings about the temporary housing ordinance are planned for 2 p.m. Jan. 21 and at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 9. Commissioners also will hear a report from the county Affordable Housing Department on Jan. 21.

"I'm glad to see Hillsborough County's taking quick action," said Sen. Bill Nelson, who pushed federal housing officials for the ruling allowing block grants to be used to replace drywall. "I hope other counties will take note."

The temporary housing provision would allow homeowners to remain close by, for up to a year, while repairs are made.

The Housing and Urban Development Department recently announced that community development block grant money could be used to help homeowners affected by the defective drywall.

Generally, the grant money may be applied if one of three objectives is met: the money must benefit low- and moderate-income people; eliminate slums or blighted conditions; or address an urgent need of community health or welfare.

Hillsborough County has $6 million for community development block grant projects for fiscal year 2010 and expects to have another $6 million the following year.

An estimated 100,000 houses nationally were built with the defective drywall.

In Florida, as of Dec. 14, there were 642 reported complaints in 30 counties, according to the state Department of Health.

The Hillsborough County Health Department reports 56 complaints. However many more are affected. The county Property Appraiser's Office offers a reduced assessment to home­owners who can verify their house has the defective drywall. So far, 176 people have sought this exemption.

Defective Chinese drywall emits a sulfuric smell and has been linked to corrosion of copper and other metals.

Homeowners have reported health symptoms that include irritated and itchy eyes, bloody or runny noses, recurrent headaches and difficulty breathing. State and federal agencies are investigating long-term health risks.

Jared Leone can be reached at jleone@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.

Hillsborough looking for ways to tackle drywall problem 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 11:40pm]

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