Orange Park, FL

Orange Park residents could be eligible for up to $15,000 in home improvements under new program

Julie Morgan

The Orange Park Town Council voted Tuesday to hire Builders Care to provide the oversight over a new housing improvement program. Builders Care will manage applicant eligibility, planning, permitting, construction, and other requirements paid for by American Rescue Plan Act funding.

This is all contingent on Builders Care accepting revisions made by the town council at its Tuesday night meeting.

The council set aside up to $150,000 out of more than $4 million in ARPA funds for the home improvement program. According to the original agreement, home improvement to each property is capped at $15,000, and Builders Care gets 10 percent to cover administrative costs.

The outlined objective is to assist the "underserved and neediest" residents of Orange Park with home improvements such as roof and window repairs and plumbing updates.

Participation requirements:

  1. Participants must reside in the corporate limits of the town of Orange Park
  2. Properties must be owner-occupied.
  3. Participants must demonstrate significant need.
  4. Priority will be given to participants who are:
    1. Over 65 years old
    2. Disabled
    3. Veterans
    4. Primary caregiver for children under 12 years old

The Town Council had a 25-minute discussion about the program's specifics that will help up to nine Orange Park residents.

The part of the agreement that was discussed the most was the $15,000 cap. Councilwoman Susana Thompson commented that if the cost of repairs exceeded the amount mentioned above, the town council should have to approve it. "It should come back to the town council for approval because it is taxpayer funds."

"I do not accept that," said Councilman Alan Watt. "The mission is to help people who have a need. I remind everybody that the $150,000 is not a hard cap. If we've got somebody that's in serious need and we can help them out, and it costs a little bit more, fine. We can go back and add additional money to that $150,000 should that need occur. Because the mission is to help people in need." Watt was referring to the overall budget set aside for the program.

Councilman John Hauber agreed. "My concern is that if somebody is in dire need, they're going to have to wait an entire week or two weeks until we meet again when we can go ahead and get them in the repair state. I would hate to delay someone that needs it when we already have a Town Manager that can authorize it."

Ultimately the council voted unanimously to give Town Manager Sarah Campbell the authority to approve a maximum of 10 percent over the $15,000 for each residential property.

However, this revision will need to be approved by Builders Care. Then, both parties will sign off on the deal and the program. After that, the program can begin.

Builders Care is the non-profit arm of the Northeast Florida Builders Association. The organization provides construction services to those in need.

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