TAMPA, Fla. — Relief is coming to homeowners who need roof repairs in East Tampa as the community redevelopment area launches an emergency roof repair program to help residents, many of whom are on the verge of getting dropped by their homeowners' insurance providers if they haven’t been already.
It may sound too good to be true, but the East Tampa CRA said its board approved $1.7 million in tax increment funding paid by East Tampa residents and business owners that can be distributed as part of the Emergency Residential Roof Repair Program on a first-come, first-serve application basis.
Bobby Ann Scott has owned her home on Osborne Drive for 27 years and is hoping the new program will help her replace her roof before her new insurance company does an inspection.
Her previous insurer, Southern Fidelity, went into receivership and liquidation in June.
“They sent me a letter, told me I had 15 days to find me another insurance company —15 days? Oh my gosh!’” Scott exclaimed. “So I called my agent. He said, ‘Ms. Bobby, don't get upset, don't get upset, we’re gonna find you somebody.”
Like more than a million other Florida homeowners, Scott is now with the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corps.
She fears they’ll be making her replace her roof any day now.
“I know they’re coming for inspection,” Scott stressed.
Scott retired about seven years ago but said social security wasn’t enough to cover the bills, so she works part-time as a school bus attendant for the county public schools system.
“I’m 69 years old, and I probably owe less on the house than the roof,” she explained. “So I went to the city to try to get me some help to see what they could do.”
Cedric McCray is the manager for the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area and told us they get several calls a day from homeowners in situations like Scott.
“You have properties that are faced with code enforcement liens and issues. And some of the folks that are living there, they're on a fixed income and just don't have the wherewithal to actually bring everything up to code,” McCray explained.
East Tampa is the largest of eight CRAs within the city, with 7.5 square miles. It’s been home to lower-income families for more than a century and has a rich African American history.
Annie Ruth Wilson, 80, was one of the first residents to move into her neighborhood on North 48th Avenue 54 years ago.
“When I first moved in, it was only like about six houses then,” she said.
Wilson needs help replacing the windows and the roof.
“I have part of the money to do these windows, but not all; that’s my main concern,” Wilson said.
While the CRA's goal is to help bring older homes into compliance with city code, they’ll in turn, be helping residents keep their homeowner's insurance as the state’s insurance crisis continues.
“There's not a day that we go, we go, my staff, our team, we get calls from residents…. they want immediately the assistance for their roofing primarily because they're being dropped or have been dropped by their insurance company,” McCray said.
Eligible applicants can receive up to $15,000 toward a roof, with no income requirements.
“I wouldn’t even know where to go or what to do, so I'm praying that they could help me,” Scott said with a smile.
So far, East Tampa is the only part of the Tampa Bay area to have a roof-specific program like this, and it could set a precedent for other cities in the state.
In order to make this program possible, the first step is getting licensed contractors to participate.
The East Tampa CRA will host a Mandatory Project Contractors Meeting on August 31 at 6 p.m. at Ragan Park Community Center, located at 1200 E. Lake Avenue. The goal is to get new contractors to be added to the city’s contractor list and, in turn, help families in East Tampa through the Emergency Residential Roof Repair program.
Any contractors interested in participating can contact email@example.com.
The program will launch on Labor Day with about 50 residents that the CRA has already approved through another agency. They will then open enrollment for a second phase on September 15.
Residents interested in applying for the program can access applications on the CRA website or office on September 15.
Anyone with questions can contact the CRA Office Support Specialist Eva Hughes at (813) 242-3807.
Emergency Residential Roof Repair Program Eligibility:
- Subject property must be located in the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area
- The applicant may be the property owner or tenant, if tenant, the owner must sign off
- Non-residential properties are not eligible
- Roof structural members
- Shingle repair/replacement
- Roof sheathing
- Roofing eaves/facia
- Roof Venting
- Gutter repair/replacement
The CRA will arrange for requested improvements and project inspections from the city of Tampa-approved licensed roofing contractors. Funds will be dispersed directly to the contractor.