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Loans program proposed to keep roofs over heads of poor

BROOKSVILLE — Some low-income residents whose old roofs are standing between them and affordable homeowner's insurance may soon get a break.

The Hernando County Housing Authority will propose a new program to the County Commission next week that could provide no-interest loans to home-owners who might otherwise land in foreclosure.

The Housing Authority recently began to hear from residents in a bind who had contacted county human services and veteran services offices as well as Mid Florida Community Services, said Donald Singer, executive director of the authority.

The homeowners complained that when it came time to renew their insurance, they were told their roofs needed to be upgraded. In most cases, the complaints were about Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which was requiring the homeowner to install a new roof in order to renew a policy.

"A lot of people just don't have the money to do that,'' Singer said.

Then the homeowner would run into a problem with the mortgage holder, according to Michael Burmann, chairman of the Housing Authority board.

In some cases, the mortgage holder would force the homeowner into a more expensive insurance policy for a house with an old roof, one that could run an extra $400 to $500 a month, landing some people in foreclosure, Burmann said.

"We feel like this will allow people to stay in their homes rather than lose their homes,'' Singer said.

Funding for the program, which would be set between $150,000 and $200,000 initially, would come from the State Housing Initiative Partnership program. That is the same program the county uses to provide down-payment assistance and money for its housing rehabilitation program.

The loan would carry no interest and would be forgiven if the homeowner stayed for 20 or more years. The loan would be paid back to the Housing Authority if the property changed hands sooner.

The program would be specifically geared to people who meet low-income criteria and have been given formal notice that they must replace their roofs in order to renew their homeowner's policies, Singer said.

Current annual low-income levels are less than $19,800 for a single person and $28,250 for a family of four.

The homeowner would be able to choose the licensed and qualified roofer; the authority would monitor the process to be sure that the proper permits were pulled, the inspection was completed and the homeowner was satisfied with the new roof, Singer said.

Also on Tuesday, the authority will ask to make a change to the down-payment assistance program by allowing the loan money to be used for closing costs as well as the down payment.

If the commission approves the changes, there will still be a required review by the state.

The SHIP money is derived from documentary stamp revenues that are part of all real estate sales. The county received $350,000 during the current fiscal year for the program. It is unclear how much might come into county coffers next year since, to date, state lawmakers have not put any funds into the program, Singer said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Loans program proposed to keep roofs over heads of poor 02/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 7:47pm]
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