CLEARWATER, Fla. — The price to live in paradise has been rising rapidly in Tampa Bay for years– from home prices and rent to property and flood insurance. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council brought industry experts together in May to discuss the challenges of homeowners insurance, advice for residents, and possible solutions to create a more resilient Tampa Bay in the future.
“We have a double whammy of interest rates are at an all-time high, they’re double from where they were a year ago, and then insurance is up anywhere from 50 to 100 percent,” said Cyndee Haydon, a Tampa Bay Realtor and Chair of the National Association of Realtors Insurance Committee.
As many wait for the effects of new legislation from two special sessions in 2022, the issue of rising property insurance rates continues to plague the entire state.
“The trickle-down of this crisis is starting to affect not only homeowners but government resources across the board,” exclaimed moderator Brandi Gabbard, Chair of St. Petersburg City Council.
Agency Manager for Members Insurance Danielle Moscinski has been writing insurance in Tampa Bay for two decades and said homeowners not only need to shop companies but agents as well.
“Ask those hard questions– What can I do? How can you help? What does this mean? Do I need that coverage? Because unfortunately, with homeowners insurance, some of the added endorsements are there might not be applicable. So you might be paying for something you don’t need,” Moscinski advised.
Haydon advised homeowners to apply for the “My Florida Safe Homes” storm mitigation grants to harden homes and lower premiums.
“In this legislative session that just ended, they re-funded it for $100 million more for next year. So they had $115 million this year. They’re looking for $100 million more,” Haydon said. “I think it’s moving to fund those things to help people do that, and it can be for roofs, for windows, for garage doors– the things that are most vulnerable in a storm.”
The legislation also broadened the qualifications for the program to homes valued up to $700,000 starting July 1.
However, it’s not just a homeowners insurance crisis. Municipalities are getting hit with high premiums as well.
“I think we’re gonna see a hard market for the next couple of years,” said Blaise Mazzola, Risk Manager for Human Resources with the City of St. Petersburg.
St Petersburg’s property insurance went up 50% in the last year and due to inflation, replacement costs are up 19%, according to Mazzola.
“In the last five years, we have seen a major uptick in premiums rates and coverages,” he exclaimed.
More buildings mean more insurance, but similar to homes– new construction with storm hardening helps with premiums.
“We can’t move where we’re located. We cannot diversify and go to another state. We are here and we are coastal, and that factors into it,” Mazzoula said. “As far as the need, we have to keep on fighting and keep on going to market with the best possible submittal and hopefully, that resonates with the insurance companies.”
“I represent a district that lies 95% in the coastal high hazard, so resiliency means the long-term sustainability of the residents that I serve,” St Pete City Council Chair Gabbard told ABC Action News.
She’s advocating for state funding for cities to help homeowners.
“Give us the funds to be able to set up programs that might help people be able to subsidize, especially our lower-income communities, because they are the most in-proportionately affected by these rates. And so we as cities want to help. We could use that assistance financially from Tallahassee to be able to do so,” she said.
The panel was also supportive of flood insurance for all homeowners in Tampa Bay, regardless of the flood zone.
The ‘My Safe Florida Home’ program was created in the first legislative special session on insurance last year.
It offers free wind mitigation home inspections and up to $10,000 in storm mitigation grants for Florida homeowners.
The Florida legislature approved some changes to the program in session this year. One change increases the amount from $5,000 to $10,000 that low-income homeowners may receive from a grant and not have to provide a matching amount.
The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature and the Department of Financial Services is also requesting $100 million to fund the program through 2024.
Report a typo
WHAT IS THE PRICE OF PARADISE?
As Tampa Bay continues to attract new residents and businesses, the impact of living in paradise comes at a cost for all of us— from the increasing cost of housing and infrastructure to utilities and insurance. ABC Action News is committed to helping you and your family make the most of your money and navigate through the Price of Paradise.