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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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City to spend $476,000 to improve 35 East Tampa homes

EAST TAMPA — The city will spend about $476,000 to upgrade about 35 owner-occupied homes with repairs to roofs, plumbing and electrical utilities.

The funds were collected within a special tax district that re-invests in community projects.

Those repaired homes will be, at best, a small reduction to the approximately 250 homes identified in East Tampa as those most in need of repair. It’s even a smaller percentage of the 1,100 homes on a citywide list of residences needing work.

But some relief is on the way.

About $600,000 in federal dollars will be available in coming months, though city officials estimate that amount will cover work on only another 38 to 40 homes. Some will be in East Tampa; others in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Thom Snelling, the city’s growth and management director, gave about 50 people an update on the city’s housing rehabilitation program at a monthly meeting of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership on Tuesday.

“We’re putting as much money as we can in a program of this kind but the need far exceeds the amount. I don’t really have a happy answer for you,” Snelling said. “I don’t have a lot of money.”

He estimates the city would need about $25 million to repair every home on the citywide list. And the following year a similar list probably would materialize.

The $600,000 in repair money available to the city comes largely from federal dollars awarded to Florida as part of a $25 billion settlement from a mortgage fraud lawsuit filed against money lenders Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citi and Wells Fargo.

Attorneys general from Florida and 48 other states as well as the federal government filed the lawsuit. Florida’s share was about $8.4 billion, most of which was earmarked for loan modifications and reductions.

Of that total amount Florida lawmakers set aside about $200 million for housing programs including SHIP (State Housing Initiative Partnership Program).

The city of Tampa received about $478,000 from SHIP coffers, which is being added to previously allocated housing funds. SHIP monies are targeted at low and moderate income households, primarily to pay for home repairs.

In June the city awarded $238,000 each to nonprofit groups Centre for Women and COACH to do home repairs exclusively in East Tampa. Snelling said to date the Centre for Women has spent about $202,000 and COACH about $165,000. The funds were from local property tax revenues collected within East Tampa’s tax district bordered by Hillsborough Avenue, Interstates 274 and 4, and city limits.

“Consumers that we provide services to, it’s definitely improving their quality of life,” said Cody Yerian, director of the Centre for Women’s housing repair program for seniors.

Hillsborough County government is another funding source, though Yerian said money is scarce. “We definitely stretch the dollar per home as far as we can.”

Snelling said the city soon will place new bids on contracts for the SHIP funds. The Tampa City Council must sign off on any resulting contracts.

The city contracts with a company that inspects homes on the distressed list and helps prioritize the work. Repairs are done based on how severe the problems are, not on the length of time a residence has been on the list.

The list of 1,100 homes was compiled last year by combing through applications on file with various nonprofit agencies. The homes are scattered citywide but Snelling said the list includes a “serious segment of the population in East Tampa. A fair portion of that (repair work) will continue in East Tampa.”

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