LARGO — Instead of facing fines, some residents whose homes are in need of repairs could be getting relief.
Earlier this month, city commissioners unanimously approved putting aside $30,000 to establish a new Angel Fund assistance program. The fund is a one-time use program for eligible applicants to correct outstanding code violations on their property.
According to Code Enforcement Manager Tracey Schofield, the new program assists both residents and the city by helping them gain compliance so they can maintain their property and avoid future code violations.
“We’re trying to put ourselves out of business,” Schofield said. “Honestly, I’d love to be able to do that. I know that’s never going to happen, but that’s the goal is to take this money, make our properties better, make our residents’ properties more valuable so we don’t have to address some of these cases.”
Schofield said the program does have some limitations.
It can only be used to correct code violations for residents who own homesteaded properties, mobile homes and manufactured residential units.
The maximum amount allowable for each case project is $1,500, which covers the cost of bringing structure, landscape, and property maintenance issues into compliance.
The money, he said, can also be applied to the cost of labor, materials and permits associated with correcting the violations.
The $30,000 for the program comes from the general fund, but Commissioner John Carroll sought to emphasize the fact that much of that money likely comes from fines received through code enforcement efforts. So, he said, the city is putting that money back into the community for a purpose.
Schofield said that was the goal. For example, he noted the city brought in about $276,000 through code enforcement efforts last year and much of it was used for small business grants during the beginning of the pandemic.
“I like the fact that we’re trying to put ourselves out of business and as the fine numbers go down, we won’t, hopefully, need this as much,” Mayor Woody Brown said.