Homeowners get more than upgrades with new houses

Clair Surgeont-Moorer (left) was greeted by county officials during a housewarming ceremony.
Photo courtesy Leon County government
Michael and Mary Jane Allaman (center) moved into their new home last week.
Photo courtesy Leon County government
Melissa McGriff (at podium) and her family have a new house through the county’s Home Replacement Program.
Photo courtesy Leon County government

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Three homeowners, who sought assistance for doing upgrades through the Leon County Division of Housing Services, got a lot more.

During the last two weeks each of the homeowners took up residence in brand-new homes. They were built through the county’s Home Replacement Program, marking the most homes in recent years that the county government has been able to replace at once. 

Each of the homes cost upwards of $250,000, according to Assistant County Administrator Shinton Lamy. Funding for replacing the homes comes from $1.1 through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program and Community Development Block Grant, along with funding from other programs.

Most times when a home becomes a part of the replacement program it is after inspections by a Leon County housing staff.

“Nine times out of 10, these people don’t realize the entire thing needs to be replaced,” said Lamy.  “They come and say my roof has an issue. But we see there are termites in there, foundation is cracked and way more than that.”

When the work is done, the owner doesn’t have a mortgage, although the county retains a lien on the home, Lamy said. 

Some of the issues that prompted the county to do the rebuilds included collapsing floors, leaking roofs and fixtures, ineffective plumbing and electrical systems, according to a new release from the county. Additionally, one of the main financial qualifications requires the homeowner’s income to be 80 percent below the area median.

Until this year when the Legislature passed the Live Local Act, which allocates $711 million that includes funding development programs, the county couldn’t replacement as many homes at once. But the commitment to improve living conditions never waned, said Jelani Marks, manager of Leon County Division of Housing Services.

“Leon County remains dedicated to improving the quality of life and economic security of our residents,” Marks said. “That’s why we appreciate days like these when we can truly demonstrate what we can accomplish for the residents of this community.

“We are very glad that we can assist the home owner. We get a lot of interest from people who are in the program. Our division is focused on growing and preserving the stock of affordable housing. That’s our mission and that’s what we strive to do.”

The last of three recent move-in ceremonies was held at a home on Balkin Road. Homeowner Clair Surgeont-Moorer was still moving into the home last Thursday. Surgeont-Moorer didn’t speak during the ceremony or with reporters, but her joy was obvious by the broad smile on her face.

Each of the homeowners was given $1,500 to help with storage while the home was being rebuilt. After the move out of the three homes, Arris General Contractors took over demolition of the old building and replacing it. The company, which is owned by John and Michelle Griffin, engaged the owners throughout the rebuild process.

“Being able to work with the homeowners and everybody the time we have been involved in this program was just life-saving,” said Michelle. “It was so much fun and everybody was so wonderful.” 

They did the rebuilds with vested interested because they knew each one would be life-changing for the owners, said John.

“That was the rewarding part,” he said. “We do a lot of municipal projects and we try to find unique things that challenge us.”

No timeline was announced for the next round of home rebuild, but County Administration Vince Long seemed ready when funding becomes available.

“I wish we could do a lot more,” he said, “because we know the need.”

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