1. Opinion

Hernando County must seize on opportunity to make roofing affordable

Published Feb. 25, 2012

Hernando County is thinking about putting a new roof over the needy. Literally. In a proposal scheduled to come before commissioners Tuesday, the Hernando County Housing Authority wants to provide no-interest loans to low-income homeowners who can't afford new roofs. The plan, similar to the existing down payment assistance and housing rehabilitation programs, would tap money from the State Housing Initiative partnership (SHIP) for financing.

As proposed, it would provide up to $10,000 for new roofs for people in danger of defaulting on their home mortgages because of an inability to obtain adequate insurance coverage without expensive roof repairs.

If it works as projected, the infusion of state money should improve the county's housing stock, provide work opportunities for roofers, and better neighborhoods by keeping people in their own homes.

This one should be a no-brainer, but commissioners in the past have not always valued the benefits of housing-improvement programs. They seem to have little trouble lending a hand when builders and developers seek an impact fee break for future homes, but commissioners sometimes stumble when presented a chance to extend similar consideration for the current housing stock.

In 2009, Commissioner Jeff Stabins couldn't find wide support for a housing rehabilitation program he offered as an alternative to waiving residential impact fees. Last year, Commissioner Wayne Dukes balked at county participation in the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program using federal dollars to get foreclosed houses off the market, repaired and readied for re-sale to moderate and low-income residents.

There should be no such objections to the roofing loans. This program is a chance to help existing Hernando County homeowners squeezed by limited incomes and insurance company demands.

Commissioners should seize this opportunity to help their constituents.