Reasonably priced dwelling area and home insurance prices are excessive on the watch lists of the legislators [Orlando Sentinel] – Insurance communications community
As Florida lawmakers prepare for another session on Tuesday, affordable housing advocates worry they will keep earmarked funding and the home insurance industry ponders what could be done about rising costs.
Jaimie Ross, President and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, says the main concern of her organization has always been the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund, which provides money for affordable housing and other programs.
"What we're looking for is to see that lawmakers keep their promises and not a penny is swept away," she said.
The Sadowski Fund is putting aside some of the taxes generated by home sales to build affordable homes in the state. Since its inception in 1992, lawmakers have searched the fund for pet projects and other government needs.
Last year Florida passed a law that took half of the fund on a permanent basis for other causes, but promised to use the other half solely for housing. If these provisions are in place, the fund will receive $ 209.2 million this year, the highest amount used in over 10 years.
"Even if housing loses 50%, it gets more money than it ever got," said Ross.
Ross commended Governor Ron DeSantis for requesting the full amount in his proposed budget, which the Governor has done every year he is in office. Now she says she's waiting to see if the legislature approves.
Also on Ross ‘radar is SB 788, the Hometown Hero program that provides loans to first responders, educators, and other government and medical workers to help with down payments for new homes. Ross said she wanted to make sure lawmakers didn't use Sadowski funds to pay for it.
Ross said her organization is also hopeful for HB 495 / SB 1150, which gives communities the right to give tax breaks for affordable housing. And she is interested in HB 511 / SB 648, which prohibits the authorities from evicting new tenant applicants during the pandemic.
"We are very concerned that people who are displaced could become homeless," she said.
Both bills could suffer hard in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Senate.
Michael Carlson, president and CEO of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida insurance lobbying organization, said he was forecasting "a relatively quiet legislature" on property insurance issues.
It's not that he doesn't see any problems, especially rising costs for home insurance.
"Prices are rising in double digits in many parts of the state," he said. "If we keep going, people won't be able to buy their homes because they can't afford insurance."
Carlson points out laws from last year aimed at attorney fees for bringing insurance claims to court, a move designed to reduce the number of what Carlson calls "predatory" roofing claims.
Part of this law has been deemed unconstitutional. Carlson believes there might be some attempts to retrofit it. However, in the battle to get the law passed last year, two of the state's biggest lobbies, insurance and litigation attorneys, have come into conflict.
"It took a lot of people to pass," he said.
Carlson is also concerned about the growing size of the state's Citizens Property Insurance, which insures homes at lower prices for people who cannot find home insurance in the mainstream market.
The growing number of customers for Citizens puts all Florida taxpayers at risk of having to cover the company if it suffers a catastrophic loss. According to its latest report, Citizens has 715,516 policies, representing assets of more than $ 211 billion.
Senator Jeff Brandes. R-St. Petersburg, submitted SB 186, which enables surplus insurers to participate in take-out programs and other activities aimed at distracting clients from citizens.
Carlson suggested that Citizens ask too few premiums.
"It's really too competitive," said Carlson of the state-owned company. "We have to align it more with other insurers."
Finally, Denis Hanks, Executive Director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Alliance, HB 325 / SB 512 caught our eye.
The bills, presented by Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and Senator Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, would collect sales taxes from sites like Airbnb and VRBO and force renters to make their homes comply with local vacation rental regulations .
Hanks says some of the provisions would be harsh on those who might only rent a property or two and not go over the big platforms.
“I think we're looking for standardization across the board,” he said. "Our goal is simply to make it more palatable for these small operators."
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