Polk County woman says new home from ‘Rebuild Florida’ puts her at risk of being kicked out of community

8 On Your Side

Woman living in Irma-damaged property devastated when Florida delivers new home

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side continues to investigate a state program that’s leaving Floridians high and dry after their homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma. So far, we’ve exposed that even though the state is sitting on hundreds of millions, homeowners have waited years for help

But some homeowners who did get help from the state now say there is a big problem.

Deborah Shiver just got a brand new mobile home from the state of Florida. But she’s not celebrating. Instead, she’s afraid her community is about to toss her out.

The winds of Hurricane Irma ripped off Shiver’s carport in 2017. Tangled aluminum was left hanging on the side of her Lakeland mobile home. Shiver documented the damage from the storm with pictures.

(Mahsa Saeidi/WFLA photo)

Shiver said she never requested a new home.

“They said you needed one?” asked Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“Yes…they said it was too old to fix the damages,” Shiver said. “I’ve never in my life asked for anything. Never. I’ve worked all my life.”

Now retired, Shiver didn’t have extra cash for hurricane repairs.

Florida does. Its “Rebuild Florida” program received more than $800 million from the federal government to help homeowners, like Shiver, recover.

After a two-year wait, her new home arrived. But now, she is devastated.

“I’ve cried many a tears over this because this is my home, I plan to live here the rest of my life,” said Shiver.

To live in her Lakeland Harbor community, like all the other neighbors, Shiver needs a carport and shed. It’s required.

According to community rules and regulations, if you violate these standards, “management…reserves the right to terminate the tenancy of any resident.”

(Mahsa Saeidi/WFLA photo)

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity oversees “Rebuild Florida.” 8 On Your Side asked a spokeswoman why Shiver’s new property appears to be violating the community’s rules.

The explanation is that installing such structures “goes against regulations put forth by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development”

Shiver says she’s now worse off than before.

“I don’t have the money for all of this,” said Shiver. “That is why I decided to go with ‘Rebuild Florida’ but, like I said, I’d never do it again.”

There’s another issue too. Shiver says the home is facing the wrong direction. The paved area is supposed to lead to the front door. But now the front entrance is by the grass.

(Mahsa Saeidi/WFLA photo)

That aside, Shiver hopes something changes so she can stay.

Once Shiver moves into the new home, the clock starts ticking. She needs a carport and shed. 8 On Your Side is working to see if there’s any other aid out there. 

In the meantime, while thousands have sent in applications to “Rebuild Florida,” just a fraction of projects have been completed.

If you’re a “Rebuild Florida” applicant in need, send an email to Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com

Full statement from DEO:

“Thanks for sending this to us, we have sent this information to our Office of Disaster Recovery to ensure proper procedures were followed and see if the applicant requires additional assistance. As you are aware, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) cannot share specific information related to a Rebuild Florida applicant with anyone other than the applicant or the person the applicant has listed as their communication designee. Statute makes confidential personal identifying information of an applicant for, or participant in a federal, state, or local housing assistance program for the purpose of disaster recovery assistance for a presidentially declared disaster, held by DEO.

In general, the Department cannot install permanent support structures on leased land because the benefit (dollars spent on those items) would then become a benefit to the owner of the leased land, and not the applicant. This goes against regulations put forth by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

Additional information can be found on our website.

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