Floridians may soon have access to a $150 million program aimed at helping them harden their homes.
In May, Florida lawmakers passed a sweeping property insurance reform package. Among other things, the bill resurrected the My Safe Florida Home program, which provides homeowners with free home inspections and grants up to $10,000 to make storm safety related improvements.
Nearly five months later residents are still unable to apply. But that could change in the coming weeks, according to the office of Chief Financial Officer Jim Patronis, who oversees the program.
“The CFO directed the project be expedited, so the targeted deployment date is the end of October,” said spokesperson Devin Galetta.
- Homeowners must have a homestead exemption.
- The home must have an insured value of $500,000 or less.
- The home must have undergone an acceptable hurricane mitigation inspection after July 1, 2008.
- The home must be located in what the Florida Building Code refers to as the “wind-borne debris region.”
- The building permit application for the initial construction of the home must have been made before July 1, 2008.
- The homeowner must agree to make his or her home available for inspection once a mitigation project is completed.
Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, said “there’s no question” that the homeowners hit hardest by Hurricane Ian could have benefited from a program like this.
“You’ve got a whole bunch of people in Florida who can not do what they need to do to make sure their home is positioned to withstand a hurricane,” he said.
He added that My Safe Florida Home could potentially save taxpayers money in the long run if it means cutting down on the number of claims that the state-run Citizens Property Insurance has to cover.
Critics of the program say it does little to solve the state’s massive property insurance crisis.
The program (which sets aside $35 million for administrative costs) only has enough funds to upgrade 11,500 homes if each applicant receives the maximum $10,000 grant.
“It’s a great political talking point, but I’m not sure it makes a meaningful impact,” said Senator Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
Others, like Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, lamented the thousands of residents who would be left out of the program. Her district falls outside of the “wind-borne debris region” so none of her constituents are eligible to receive help.
She said the flooding Orlando experienced in the wake of Hurricane Ian underscored the need for a more wide sweeping approach.
“I do think home hardening is important,” she said. But, “I think this is just another example of the legislature passing a policy with a short term goal but not even meeting that short term goal.”
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
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WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.