By Chris Fish
MELBOURNE - The City of Melbourne is taking applications to qualify for a unique grant, provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
The grant will fund the "Melbourne Residential Retrofit Program," which will provide financial assistance to homeowners, so they may strengthen their homes against windstorm damage.
"We currently don't have a contract with the state, but we are taking names of residents and hoping to circle back to them (within the year)," said Melinda Thomas, housing and community development director for the City of Melbourne.
A qualifying resident can receive funding for eligible "hurricane hardening" improvements. The improvements include hurricane shutters, gable-end bracing and anchor straps.
Ms. Thomas said the maximum amount an eligible candidate may receive from the city is $10,000. Applicants are required to pay a deposit of half the estimated cost for repairs.
If the repair cost ends up being cheaper than the original estimation, Ms. Thomas said the city will refund the applicant the difference in his or her deposit.
Ms. Thomas said there is aid for applicants who cannot pay the deposit.
"There are some folks who may not be able to raise all of the deposit," she said. "We set aside a State Housing Initiative Partnership program to help raise the amount. Those wanting to access some help in meeting their (deposit) must provide sources of income. Then, it is up to the city for verification."
Ms. Thomas said the maximum amount of aid distributed from the State Housing Initiative Partnership program is $5,000, depending on an applicant's eligibility.
After the city receives approval for the grant from the state, the city will pay for the cost of the retrofitting projects and be reimbursed by the state after the project is complete.
When an applicant has a restoration job, Ms. Thomas said there is a process he or she must follow.
"If (an applicant wants) new shutters, they would get a 50 percent discount by paying only half the project cost (through a deposit)," she said. "An applicant would bring (his or her) deposit to the city, take bids on the project and then select a contractor."
Due to limited funding, as well as a limited amount of time for spending grant funds, interested homeowners should apply as soon as possible, Ms. Thomas said.
Contact the city's housing and community development office at (321) 674-5734 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.