Habitat for Humanity gets $2.5M to rebuild low-income areas of Lee County

Published: November 1, 2022 7:11 AM EDT
Updated: November 1, 2022 10:17 AM EDT

On Tuesday, Lee County commissioners approved $4 million in grant money from the state so that organizations can rebuild homes in low-income areas damaged by Hurricane Ian.

One of the groups getting a large chunk of the money—$2.5 million— is Habitat for Humanity. WINK News spoke to one Harlem Heights homeowner, Henny Frederick, who could use some of that money to rebuild the home where he’s lived since 1968.

On Monday, Frederick’s front lawn was strewn with saws, hammers and debris. Since Ian, Frederick says he spends his days rebuilding the ceiling and the walls of his home. He lost everything, including two cars. Frederick says it hurts because he has made so many memories in that home since the late 60s.

“Nobody thought it was going to be that bad,” Frederick said. “I’ve been around for other hurricanes, but this was a super hurricane this time.”

Katie Cribbs with Habitat for Humanity says the organization can use up to $75,000 worth of assistance money for each family. The homeowners will not be required to make any payments unless they relocate, refinance or sell their home before the five-year period. They must meet the income guidelines: 80% or less of the area median income. In Lee County, that would be an annual income of $64,300 for a family of four.

“We started raising funds for hurricane recovery right after the hurricane came through; we knew the need was going to be there, and as a housing ministry, we already made plans to be there for our community,” Cribbs said. “But this $2.5 million is really going to get that ball rolling a lot faster.”

According to the county, the grant agreement provides funding for:

  • Lee County Housing Development Corp
    • $275,025 − Owner-occupied rehabilitation for a minimum of three households affected by Hurricane Ian with priority being given to special needs, very low and low-income households.
    • $250,000 – Mortgage and Insurance Deductible Assistance for a minimum of 15 households affected by Hurricane Ian with priority being given to special needs, very low and low-income households.
    • $500,000 – Rental Assistance for a minimum of 20 households affected by Hurricane Ian with priority being given to special needs, very low and low-income households.
  • Center for Independent Living Gulf Coast
    • $970,000 – Owner-occupied rehabilitation for a minimum of 10 homes affected by Hurricane Ian with priority being given to special needs, very low and low-income households.

If the homeowner doesn’t have insurance, SHIP funds can pay one year’s worth of homeowner’s insurance. Cribbs says Habitat for Humanity has been hearing from many people who need help right now.

“We’ve seen the disaster teams come in already, we know that the blue tarps are up, we know that the walls have been pulled out, and we know that the garbage has been placed on the curb,” Cribbs said. “But now what? Well, now this is that long-term recovery, that permanence that people need to really get themselves whole again, and we’re going to start that process.”

“Moved into the house about 1968 and now I’m starting all over again, now that I got old,” Frederick said. “I’m almost too old to start over, though; I’m at 8-0.”

If you would like to apply, visit the Lee County government website’s SHIP program page.