The Village of Wellington’s popular Great Neighborhoods grant program is now seeking applicants. An informational meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Wellington Community Center (12150 W. Forest Hill Blvd.) will explain how grant recipients can receive up to $15,000 for qualifying home projects.
The Wellington Village Council has approved $250,000 in Great Neighborhoods grant matching funds for residents who want to provide repairs or upgrades to their homes in 2019.
Designed to assist low- and moderate-income residents of the village, the dollar-for-dollar matching grants are available to income-eligible homeowners who meet specific criteria, including residing in the property as their primary residence for at least 18 months, living there for at least eight months out of the year and who are planning to stay for at least five more years.
“The mission of the program is to maintain Wellington as the great hometown that it is,” Community Services Director Paulette Edwards said.
She explained that many village residents are aging, and many are on a fixed income. Both situations make keeping up with maintenance a challenge.
“We want them to stay in their home, and we want to keep it affordable,” said Edwards, who added that a new roof, air conditioner or updated windows, circuit breakers and other code requirements all help in lowering energy costs.
Edwards said that the program helps to ensure home values are sustained and the homes keep up to date with current standards. So far, most of the grants have gone to recipients who had hurricane hardening projects.
“The grant allocation is a use-it-or-lose-it situation,” said Edwards, who added that the council decides each year whether or not to re-allocate money for the program to continue. “So, we want people to use the grants.”
Community Services Project Manager Gloria Kelly said the program began in 2018 and has already helped 12 homeowners with projects ranging in cost from $8,000 to the full $15,000 grant. She stressed that the process is lengthy, but can be rewarding to grant recipients, and that the majority of those who applied so far have received grants.
“The process may seem tedious to collect all the paperwork necessary, but it can be worth it,” Kelly said.
She said that the homeowner fills out the application and a village-contracted inspector checks that the property meets all current building codes, or the owner agrees to update any deficiencies. All taxes, mortgage payments and insurance must be current. The inspector provides an estimate for labor and materials for the specific eligible project. The work will go to the lowest responsible general contractor’s bid.
The homeowner must place the money for their half, plus a 10 percent contingency, in an escrow account, and a lien is placed on the property for five years.
“If the homeowner sells the property before the five years is up, they pay the village back for the grant at 20 percent per year left of the five-year term,” Kelly said, adding that there is no interest or penalty charged.
Clark Siler, who owns a home in Wellington’s Lakeside Shores neighborhood, said he had a new roof put on his home using the grant program.
“We got a letter from our insurance company saying that our home’s roof was 20 years old, and we would have to have a new one put on or find another insurance carrier,” Siler recalled. “It is our first home, and we were surprised. Coincidentally, we found out about the grant program about the same time, so we submitted the paperwork. They got back to us pretty quickly.”
He explained that village staff handled the bids and contractor, and provided help every step of the way.
“It was really great,” Siler said. “The village did most of the heavy lifting. We paid half plus the 10 percent contingency fee, and the village handled everything. They provided the extra muscle and relieved us of all the confusion and fear, and the new roof was put on in two days. Our contractor was great. I’m telling all my friends about this.”
Kelly said the grants are increasing the quality of life in Wellington. “We are getting really good traction, and we hope to grow the awareness of the program.”
Residents interested in applying for a Great Neighborhoods grant should call (561) 791-4796 and are encouraged to attend the Feb. 20 informational meeting.