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Drywall aid may offer little relief to Cape homeowners

By Staff | Dec 25, 2009

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it will offer help to people dealing with defective drywall, but an early look at the proposal indicates that it could mean very little to Cape homeowners.
Two methods of help are being proposed: People with FHA loans may be eligible for assistance to help rehabilitate their properties, and community development block grant funds may be redirected to help homeowners rid their properties of the drywall.
The problems, both city and county officials said, are with the income requirements for the FHA loan portion, and the limited amount of CDBG funds.
Cape Coral, for instance, receives only $700,000 in block grant funding annually.
According to Amy Yearsley, a CDBG/SHIP coordinator for the city, 65 percent of the block grant funds are already designated for public housing and economic development, leaving very little money to help homeowners rehabilitate their investments.
“When HUD is able to more adequately advise how to move forward, it could make somewhat of a difference, but with limited funds it could be difficult,” Yearsley said. “It would have to be a wait-and-see type of situation. That’s the problem with Chinese drywall all along though; it’s been a wait-and-see situation.”
Cape Coral resident Richard Kampf has been living with defective imported drywall — commonly referred to as Chinese drywall as much of the problem board was shipped from there — for two years.
During that time, he’s been trying to lead the citizen charge for drywall reform, even testifying before the United States Congress about he and wife Patti’s battle with the wallboard said to emit a metal- corroding gas.
He said the HUD money is a step in the right direction, but is concerned about the income requirements.
For instance, a family of four can’t make more than $48,000 annually to receive CDBG monies.
But for Kampf, who is still living in his home and having what he says are adverse health effects from the defective drywall, time is of the essence and he thinks the federal government should not try to complicate the process.
Kampf recently held a Chinese drywall rally at Shell Point in North Fort Myers that was attended by Lt. Gov. Jeff KottKamp, whose new home in Lee County’s contained the defective wallboard.
“If I could qualify for the money, I’d like to see it administered quickly,” Kampf said. “I have some doubt about the time frame, but it’s the only thing we have going right now.”
Ann Arnall, Lee County’s director of Human Services, said the problem with the information HUD has released thus far is its clarity.
The county does provide funds to homeowners for owner-occupied rehabilitations, but Arnall said she’s unsure if Lee’s CDBG funds can be used for Chinese drywall, and how it should be distributed.
“They tend to put this stuff out and not write the rules,” Arnall said. “How do we prioritize it? How do we meet the demand? Do you only give it to a handful of people, or does nobody get it?”
More information can be found at www.hud.gov, or by calling U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office at 202-224-1679.