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S.W. Florida Daily News


Dept. of Economic Opportunity provides homeowners’ assistance for Floridians

Dept. of Economic Opportunity provides homeowners' assistance for Floridians

CAPE CORAL, Fla.  — There are several local, state and federal resources to help people buy a home, pay their rent or stay in the home they own. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has a homeowner assistance program to aid people to avoid mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosure and utility costs.

The program is funded through the American Rescue Plan and it launched through the DEO in February 2022.

Programs like this could help homeowners like Troy Wheatley. He just bought a home after he was told his landlord was selling the house Wheatley had been renting less than three weeks ago.

“It’s just sucking every dime I came down here with,” Wheatley said. “We just didn’t know what direction to go.”

He moved down to Cape Coral last year from Maryland. Now, he and his wife have to be out of their rental by September.

“I had to find a place to live and I had to come up with a large amount of money to do it,” Wheatley explained.

After looking at 12 houses and submitting more than five offers, Wheatley found a house. It didn’t come without sacrifices.

“We had a camper. We sold it to help with the down payment of a new house that we held on to just in case we didn’t find a house quick enough that we might have had to live in it,” Wheatley said.

In a previous interview with Fox 4, Dr. Shelton Weeks, real estate professor at FGCU said to get the housing crisis under control, it’s going to take more than one agency.

“All these government entities have to work to contribute to the solution,” Weeks said. “There’s not going to be one entity that goes out there and solves this for us.”

The DEO has started community outreach programs, telling people about the homeowner assistance fund. To this point, the DEO has given out $156 million in help.

Wheatley said he wants to see more to make up for the rise in costs of goods.

“There ought to be some kind of infrastructure to help, some kind of assistance to make up for the difference for the cost of living that’s today than it was two years ago,” he explained.

The DEO did not fulfill our request for an interview, but we’re still able to provide some eligibility requirements to take advantage of the program.

You must have had financial hardship due to COVID, be a Florida homeowner and meet specific income qualifications based on the Area Median Income (AMI).

Though Wheatley is not eligible, he knows others could benefit from programs like this.

“Myself and my wife putting stuff together — we’re going to squeeze through this,” he said.

To see if you’re eligible for assistance, click here.

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