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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Florida lawmakers want to re-up funding for a program designed to lower property insurance costs

Two men rebuilding a roof
Florida Climate Institute
Katie Delk
Robert McMahon, Southern Fresh Farms owner, and friend Jake Stevens rebuild the roof that shelters animals on the Fort Myers farm on Oct. 8. The wooden roof had collapsed as Hurricane Ian tore through.

Florida lawmakers resurrected the nearly 20-year-old program during a 2022 special session. Now, they are considering keeping it alive. 

Florida lawmakers want to re-up funding for the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program.

The program, which was originally created in 2006, incentivizes homeowners to make property repairs that, in turn, should lower risk for insurers and costs for policyholders.

The program expired in 2009 before lawmakers re-established the program during a 2022 special session. Lawmakers re-funded the program in 2023 and are now considering keeping it alive for the current fiscal year.

The Senate bill (SB 7028) proposes allocating $100 million in grant funding for the MSFH program and $7 million for the administrative costs of running the program.

The bill is set to be heard by the Senate’s Fiscal Policy Committee on Jan. 31.

Mark Friedlander, director of the Insurance Information Institute, said the program works by helping homeowners receive a home inspection and afford a costly roof repair or replacement.

Qualifying homeowners, prioritizing low-income homeowners over 60 years old, are matched one dollar for every two dollars spent on home inspections and property improvements, up to $10,000, according to current Florida law.There’s currently a backlog of 17,617 grant applications awaiting funding, according to a bill analysis.

Friedlander said fortifying residential property to better withstand the severe weather that’s common in Florida reduces risk for insurers.

“Florida suffers significant impacts on roofs year round because of not only hurricanes, but severe weather events year round,” Friedlander said. “We’ve had a very rough winter here, in many parts of Florida, particularly in the Tampa Bay area.”

Friedlander said that insurers are mandated to offer discounts on insurance premiums for homeowners who strengthen their roofs.

“The roof being the first line of defense against windstorm damage — if there are any steps you could take to make your roof more fortified for wind storms — not only will it save you the headache, perhaps of a storm loss …but it could save you money … on your premium,” he said.

Friedlander said reducing risk in Florida’s overall market is likely to put downward pressure on property insurance rates at-large, too.

The proposal (SB 7028) to expand and modify the MSFH program is one of at least a dozen bills filed in Florida’s 2024 regular session to address the state’s ongoing insurance crisis.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a  Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.
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