The Habitat Home Repair Program is designed to offer homeowners home repairs in four essential repair categories: “Aging in Place” Modifications (ramps or accessibility upgrades designed to accommodate physical mobility limitations), Critical Home Repairs (roof replacement, plumbing, electric, structural repairs) Energy Efficiency Upgrades (insulation, HVAC) and Exterior Enhancements (paint, landscaping). Eligible homeowners will be provided a zero-percent interest loan to cover the cost of repairs, while the loan payment will be tailored to ensure affordability.
After Hurricane Irma, Caroline and her family's home was left in disarray. In addition to parts of their home being damaged, their fence was completely destroyed. After a year of being denied by their insurance company, receiving repair quotes out of their financial ability, and receiving a code violation notice, Caroline turned to the Habitat Home Repair Program. With help from Habitat and a grant provided by Senior Citizen Services of Pinellas County, Caroline was able to improve her situation. Her story is below:
"To whom it may concern,
We have lived in our home for over 30 years, but the last 10 of those have been a financial stress, as I became disabled, and we also care for our autistic Grandson. My husband had to quit his job to care for us, and we ended up on food stamps and welfare; it was humiliating. Things around the house fell by the wayside, but we managed until Hurricane Irma hit, damaging parts of the home, and completely destroying our fence, which went un-repaired for a year. We got several quotes for the work, but they were out of reach for us financially, and we didn't have the physical strength to do it ourselves.
Then in October of last year we finally got a code violation notice from the city. You can't imagine the panic that set it when we were given notice to fix it within 14 days or pay a fine. Fortunately I called the city and a very nice lady listened to our situation, and that we had tried to save the money to fix it, but were totally unable. Both our insurance and FEMA had turned us down for the repairs. Our insurance turned us down because we had a super high hurricane deductible, and FEMA denied our claim because the bedrooms and kitchen weren't involved in the roof damage (and neither covers fences.) 'Don't worry she said, we have programs for people in your situation, and if you apply for one, the violation goes on hold.' It was a sigh of relief.
About a week later our code inspector dropped by with a Habitat brochure, and I immediately applied online that day. It said we would hear within 30 days, but not two days later we heard from Lutricia Johnson, saying she thought they could help.
They next month (it was over Thanksgiving) we attended an orientation meeting that was literally 20 minutes long. It contained the application and expectations, and we were told to bring it back by when we were done. I spent the next few days filling it out, and copying tax returns, and we dropped it back to her within a week.
About two days later they sent an inspector to evaluate the scope of work, and he very carefully took notes, and photographs.
In early December I caught pneumonia again, and was in the hospital when my husband got a call from the inspector, saying we had qualified to get the most essential part fixed, and he stopped by the office to sign the agreement. There they agreed on December 26th, and we were sitting down at Christmas and both said that it was funny we hadn't heard anything back confirming the date, and went to sleep on Christmas Day, wondering if that present we both so desperately wanted, was actually coming.
Sure enough, on Boxing Day, at around 7:00 am, we heard a commotion in the back yard, with 6-7 men hard at work tearing out our old fence. They got most of it done the first day, and came back the next day to do finishing touches. As an unexpected treat, they trimmed bushes and got rid of years of weeds. Now our yard looks beautiful, secure, and best of all, within a few days, we got a letter from the code inspector, clearing our code violation.
Honestly, the process was as simple as they could have made it. We mostly communicated via email, but the times we went to the office. It was clean and the staff were welcoming. There was clear communication. We were told we would be welcomed back to do more work on the house if our financial situation changed, and based on our experience, I would definitely do so.
We all know of one other person who completed the Habitat homeownership program, and that's what they are known for...but I think few know that they have an 'Aging in Place' program to help us as we age, staying where we are most comfortable. We are indeed most comfortable with the result of this experience, and applaud all those who helped us. We are forever in their thanks. I would recommend Habitat to anyone in need. They are here to help.
To learn more about our Home Repair Program, please click here.