A valuable South Carolina grant program that helps coastal homeowners pay for roof replacements soon will be accepting applications again.
That’s important, because this is a great deal. I know, because I’ll be replacing my home’s roof this summer, and the Safe Home program will be paying half the cost.
There’s no income limit for applicants, and although there is a limit on how much a home can be worth, most homes would qualify.
Safe Home grants are meant to help Lowcountry residents make their homes better able to withstand hurricanes. It’s funded by a tiny portion of the tax South Carolina collects on insurance policies.
After I wrote about the grant program in this column in June 2014, the state Department of Insurance received so many requests that in mid-November they stopped accepting applications. The program has limited funding, about $2 million each fiscal year, and at the time it was taking the department up to 10 months to process and approve an application (my application, filed around the start of June, was approved last week).
The important thing to know right now is that the program is going to reopen for applications near the end of April. Grants are processed on a first-come, first-served basis, so those who plan to apply should be prepared. I’ll explain how to do that, and how the program works.
One of the best things about Safe Home is the simplicity of the qualifications. If you own a single-family home that you reside in, in one of the counties covered by the program (which includes the tri-county area), and the home’s value doesn’t exceed the guidelines, and it is insured, then you qualify.
You can either get a dollar-for-dollar matching grant, worth up to $5,000, or if your income and home value are low enough, an outright grant of up to $5,000. The grant funds go directly to the contractor.
The homeowner can additionally get a state income tax credit of up to $1,000 for the out-of-pocket costs and a rebate for up to $300 of sales tax paid for the materials.
The Department of Insurance is currently updating application materials, and I can’t tell you how the new applications will be different, but the eligibility rules are set by state law and have not changed.
Safe Home grants are for owner-occupied, single-family homes with a taxable value of $300,000 or less. If you think your home is worth too much to qualify, check it out — taxable values apply only to the building (not the property) and are subject to caps due to the state’s 2007 property tax law changes. So, your home may be worth more than $300,000, but the taxable value could be less.
The home must be adequately insured.
Under current rules the home must be located in Horry, Georgetown, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Beaufort, Jasper, Dorchester, Williamsburg, or certain portions of Florence and Marion counties.
Grants with no matching-fund requirement are available for those with homes with taxable values below $150,000, who earn less than 80 percent of the median income for their county. For example, the “low-income” threshold for a family of three in the Charleston Metro area would be an adjusted gross income of just over $45,000.
To apply for the program, you must hire a certified wind inspector who will inspect your home and prepare the application materials. Current rules cap the cost for that service at $150. A list of approved inspectors is on the Department of Insurance website at doi.sc.gov/605/SC-Safe-Home.
A good inspector should fill out all the application paperwork, so that all you have to do is sign and mail it. It can take many months to get an approval letter from the state, but when you do, you’ll have a set period of time to complete the project. My recent approval letter gave me three months to have my roof replaced.
You can’t have an inspection done right now, because the Department of Insurance hasn’t finished updating the requirements and the forms. What you can do is look up the certified inspectors that serve your area, call a few, check their references, and when you select one, ask them to call you as soon as the new application process opens up.
Safe Home grants are not just for roofs, but I’ve focused on that because everyone needs to replace their roof at some point, and roof replacement that meets Safe Home standards shouldn’t cost much more than a typical one. Grant funds are also available for windows, but to qualify, every opening in the house — windows, doors, garage door — would have to meet wind and impact standards, and that’s a very big and very expensive job.