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REBUILD Northwest Florida Extends Services To Rental Home Owners In Escambia County

For the first time since the organization began “hardening homes” in 2008, REBUILD Northwest Florida has extended their services from homesteads to rental home owners as well, with its new hurricane mitigation program.

Garrett Walton, director at REBUILD Northwest Florida, says they’re doing this for the community, and rental homes are a significant part of the community, so they felt it was time to offer their services to these homes as well.

Walton says that when REBUILD first started back in 2004, their mission was to help repair homes. But he recalls a time shortly into the process of fixing up homes when someone asked him an important question…

“What happens in a few years if we have another hurricane? We’re gonna have to do this all over again.”

So they decided to start preparing, rather than repairing.

He says there is a sound body of building science that alludes to certain measures that can be taken to ensure that homes stand a better chance of surviving severe storms.

“That building science does not include some of the old myths, duct tape or masking tape over the windows,” Walton says. “That’s myths, okay. People think it’s well intended, but no that’s not what we do. We do real science-proven, science-based stuff to a house to help homeowners make that house stronger.”

Thanks to two grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency totaling just under $3 million, REBUILD is able to cover 50% of the cost for rental home owners, with the coverage provided for homesteads being 75% of the cost.

In the past, Walton says the average cost for a homestead has been about $9,000 but they expect the cost for rental homes to be slightly lower.

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REBUILD’s 10,000th Home Owner’s: Philip and Tina Otwell speaking with Chairman Ed Gray and CEO Garrett Walton

“We’re expecting, as we get into the rental program, that many of the houses might be a little smaller, a little simpler, a little older, and probably a little less expensive,” Walton says.

“So we’re thinking probably $7,000 – $8,000 a house. We’re gonna find out here in the next few months. We’re expecting it somewhere in that range, but we’re prepared to do them if they’re $10,000 or $6,000 a house.”

After you file your application for their services, REBUILD will send one of their structural engineers to come out and inspect your home to make sure that it's fit to receive the enhancements they provide.

Alexis Bolin, a broker associate with ERA Legacy Realty, had her home done by REBUILD last year and was one of the first to sign up for the new rental program.

“If you have a home built since 2000, it doesn’t have all the hurricane clips and shutters and things that we really should have to harden our home in the event we have a hurricane,” Bolin says. “So that was one reason my husband and I decided to have REBUILD out.”

In addition to their overall safety, Bolin says there are financial gains to be made from having this work done to your home as well.

“When you get ready to sell the house, you may be selling to somebody that that’s going to be their primary residence. And if they’re trying to make a decision between your home and another one that doesn’t have the hurricane upgrade like REBUILD puts in, they may choose your home over the other home simply because of it.”

Along with the added value to the home, Bolin says she noticed a significant difference in their insurance costs after having the work done as well.

The new rental program, which requires a 50% match, is being made available in Escambia County only, on a first come, first serve basis.

REBUILD has also decided to do one home per applicant, to make sure that everybody who needs to get served, gets served.

“Our board of directors has determined, let’s do individual houses,” Walton says. “Houses that are owned, an owner owns one rental house. We’ll do one house first. And then everybody that’s applied, if there’s some people that own two houses then we’ll go back and do two houses, the second house. Kind of a buffet thing, a Round Robin deal.”

A reminder, this offer is only available as long as the FEMA money lasts. To apply for REBUILD Northwest Florida’s residential mitigation program, call 850-497-7024, or apply online at www.REBUILD n w f .org.