Things should soon be looking sunnier in the Sunshine State, thanks to a just-approved $616 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiative to help Floridians rebound from Hurricane Irma.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson gave the go-ahead to the disaster recovery plan, funded via the agency’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. The program mandates that grantees devise a “thoughtful recovery program informed by local residents.”
“As we move along the road to recovery, HUD will be right by Florida’s side to help in any way we can to make the state whole again,” Secretary Carson noted.
The news came only days after HUD gave the greenlight to a similar recovery plan for Texas.
For his part, Florida Gov. Rick Scott ballyhooed the announcement and said recovery efforts will remain in full swing until all of the affected regions within the state have bounced back. “We won’t stop working until all of Florida’s communities have fully recovered,” he said.
To hammer away at the region’s manifold unmet needs, the state set its sights on a spate of housing and economic development recovery needs stemming from Hurricane Irma. It designed the following programs in response:
- Housing Repair Program ($273.3M) will rehab damaged residential units occupied by low- and moderate-income families.
- Workforce Affordable Rental New Construction Program ($100M) will ease the creation of affordable rental housing through an alliance with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation by leveraging CDBG-DR funds with low-income housing tax credits. It will also employ CDBG-DR funds for zero-interest loans for smaller developments.
- Land Acquisition for Affordable Workforce Housing ($20M) supplies financial backing for purchasing land for development into affordable housing, especially in spots where the lack of developable terrain makes it hard to build properties that the local workforce can rent at an affordable rate.
- Voluntary Home Buyout Program ($75M) helps bolster risk reduction through the voluntary purchase of residences in high flood-risk areas. To further slash flood risk and/or serve as recreational space for the public, participating communities are encouraged to develop plans for reusing the acquired land.
- Recovery Workforce Training Program ($20M) will buoy statewide workforce training with the goal of growing the skilled labor force needed to support long-term recovery, chiefly in the housing construction field.
- Business Recovery Grant Program ($60M) provides help for eligible business owners seeking reimbursement for the cost of replacing equipment and inventory damaged by Irma.
- Business Assistance to new Floridians from Puerto Rico ($6M) gives business plan guidance, accounting services, licensing information, and other resources to help people acclimatize to the state’s business environment.
To read more about the effects of last year’s devastating hurricane season, click here.