LARGO — In January, the city established a new Angel Fund assistance program to help homeowners that faced code enforcement fines but couldn’t afford to make the repairs.

The maximum amount allowed for each case project was $1,500, which was meant to cover the cost of bringing structure, landscape, and property maintenance issues into compliance.

Unfortunately, the cost of building materials has skyrocketed and $1,500 just doesn’t go as far as it used to, Community Standards Manager Tracey Schofield told city commissioners earlier this month. 

“It just increases everything we’re doing because, obviously, they (contractors) are just going to pass it on to us,” he said.

Therefore, at his request, commissioners unanimously approved increasing the maximum limit the city can spend on projects to $5,000.

Thus far, the city has completed two projects, but Schofield said it’s been difficult to do more because of the spike in prices brought on by numerous factors, including material and shipping delays caused by the pandemic and the proliferation of apartment complexes throughout Florida, leading to supply shortages.

“We’ve got some fence cases that these per panel fences are very expensive now. Even trying to find them at Home Depot or Lowe’s for the contractors is very difficult,” he said, adding that what was a $25 piece of plywood now costs nearly $80. 

Increasing the limit to $5,000 will help, he said, citing two projects pending approval that are more than $1,500 but less than $5,000.

The extra money could also help pay for a portion of a project, such as homeowners who might need $10,000 in roof repairs. 

Commissioner John Carroll said he was happy to expand the amount, but also wanted to make sure taxpayers weren’t being taken advantage of.

“I just don’t want to get us in a position where every bid for every contractor comes in at $4,800, and plywood is not always going to be 75 bucks a sheet, I don’t think,” he said.

Schofield said they are careful with the contractors they use and said the program will be reevaluated if the price of materials comes down.

“A lot of the folks that are our vendors are wanting to help the community as well, so they understand if they can reduce their cost a couple hundred dollars here, a couple hundred dollars there, that’s a couple hundred dollars we can use for another case,” he said, adding that it might also mean the city could help another resident and give the contractor another job.