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Additional Long-Term Housing Recovery Help Available To Panhandle Residents

In the community of Highland View, just west of Port St. Joe, the storm surge from Hurricane Michael toppled houses and knocked mobile homes completely over.
Debbie Elliott
In the community of Highland View, just west of Port St. Joe, the storm surge from Hurricane Michael toppled houses and knocked mobile homes completely over.

Panhandle residents still recovering from Hurricane Michael can get additional help covering the costs of repairing or rebuilding their storm-damaged homes.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has made $246 million in federal long-term recovery dollars available to residents in a dozen counties across the Big Bend region.

“The launch of the Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program is a key milestone toward complete recovery for these homeowners and their communities,” wrote DEO Executive Director Dane Eagle said in a recent press release.

Funding for the program was administered to the state by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

According to a recent press release, the grant program “will provide long-term assistance to repair, rebuild, or replace Hurricane Michael-damaged homes” belonging to low-to-moderate income residents who still live at the property. Under HUD guidelines, a family of four in Bay County that earned $55,500 or less each year would meet the income threshold to get priority for assistance.

The Rebuild Florida website notes that families and individuals who earn more could still qualify for a grant and receive assistance. But their applications will get considered after those belonging to low-to-moderate income residents.

Eligible disaster counties include: Bay, Gadsden, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla, Washington, Jackson and Taylor Counties.

“Governor DeSantis is focused on the full recovery of Floridians impacted by Hurricane Michael, and we are proud to assist them during their long-term recovery process,” Eagle wrote in the news release.

Residents may apply online, in-person or via the Rebuild Florida mobile app. They can call 888-530-3025 for more information and to schedule an appointment to complete the application at one of four Rebuild Florida residents.

Rebuild Florida centers are open 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday - Saturday in the following locations:

2917-B Optimist Dr.
Marianna, FL 32448

Panama City
Minnesota Ave.
Suite 120
Panama City, FL 32405

Port St. Joe
109 Trade Circle West
Suite 1
Port St. Joe, FL 32456

545 John Knox Rd.
Suite 102
Tallahassee, FL 3230

Much of the affordable housing remains offline more than two years following the Category 5 storm, which damaged 60% of houses and mobile homes in the county, according to the county’s long-term recovery plan.

Rental property owners may also apply for a grant to cover costs of rebuilding or repairing multi-family housing units, townhomes and condos, which remain in short supply, Donna Pilson, executive director of Rebuild Bay County Inc, said in an interview last fall. Pilson says low supply coupled with the high demand for rental housing has driven up costs.

“Those landlords can charge market rate,” Pilson said. “There is very little incentive to go down.”

“Our housing complexes took a major hit during the storm. It takes a long time for those to come back. Several of those have still not come back yet,” she said. “Many of those had hundreds of units.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.