January 28, 2023


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Property insurance, housing costs still plague SWFL residents


The Florida Legislative session has ended without major legislation to help Floridians who are still struggling to find real relief from rising insurance rates and a lack of affordable housing.

With palm trees, green grass and the glow of the Florida sun, homes in the sunshine state are beautiful, but they cost an unbelievable amount of money to insure.

“The property insurance is skyrocketing,” said John Heichelbech, a Southwest Florida Homeowner.

“Property insurance is so high,” said Betty, a Southwest Florida Homeowner.

How high? “So property insurance when two years ago my premium for a condo was about $1,100. I just got my renewal. And then it’s $1,900,” said Jeff Ford, who owns a home in Southwest Florida.

That’s an $800 spike in 18 months. Ford said he doesn’t know now if he should even keep his insurance. “To ensure $80,000 of contents for $1,800, is that a good value or not?” Ford said.

A few streets down, a woman named Betty said for her, property insurance is just too valuable to drop. So to keep it, she started to stay home to pay for her home owner’s insurance. “I just don’t go out as much I just stay home. That shows social life. You know, there’s other things to do. He can ride your bike and stuff like that. But still, it’s nice to go out to eat still,” said Betty.

Heichelbeck said his insurance in Southwest Florida is two times what he pays for his place in Indiana. He can swing it, but not all his neighbors can. “They have to have to dip more into the retirements you know, down the road and that probably means less that our kids are getting kids is going to get when the day comes,” said Heichelbeck.

Ford said he was hoping the day already would have come where he would see some help from the Florida legislature. “I think something needs to be done about it,” said Ford.

The legislature talked about offering insurance companies help by reducing the number of people who rely on Citizens Insurance, but nothing happened.

Senate President Wilton Simpson previously said if the legislature didn’t get anything done, they would have failed. He did hint at a special session tackling the issue down the road.

What happens in Tallahassee, in the chambers of the state legislature is politics, but what happens, or doesn’t happen there, affects real people.

“We have a seven-year-old she almost she’s almost seven. And we have another one on the way,” said Daniell Akel.

Akel said last year she started to look for a bigger place for her growing family. Had they moved then,  it would’ve cost about $500 a month more, which she could swing. Now, “It’s like $1,500, maybe $2,000 more, which is almost double our rent. That’s just if we were talking about buying and paying that toward a house that we were going to own, that would be one thing, but to pay rent toward nothing and to pay toward nothing?” Akel said.

She’s grateful to have something she loves, even if space is tight.

WINK News interviews people every week who can’t. “My kids can go to school in this area. My daughter is in daycare but now we can’t afford to live in this area.”

Lawmakers did allocate more money in the budget toward affordable housing this year than in years past, but there’s no rhyme or reason as to how that money will get spent.

Lawmakers didn’t pass a single affordable housing bill.

“To focus on the notion there were disagreements on two or three big policy items would not do the session justice,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson.

According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, rent in Lee County went up 26% last year. In Collier County, it went up 38%. The highest percentage hike in the nation.

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