Legislature passes bill doubling cap on house-hardening grants through ‘My Safe Florida Home’ program
Jim Boyd.

The Senate and House recently agreed to earmark another $100M for the resurrected and renamed program.

A proposal to double the amount of grant funding low-income Floridians can receive to strengthen their homes against wind damage is ready for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature after receiving sweeping support in the Legislature.

Senate and House lawmakers unanimously approved HB 881. Among other things, the bill increases the grant for eligible homeowners to harden their properties from $5,000 to $10,000 through the My Safe Florida Home Program.

The bill also requires free evaluations to be conducted by licensed inspectors trained in hurricane mitigation techniques, in addition to certified inspectors, and allows owners of townhomes to participate in the program for door and window protections. All inspections under the program would only be permitted for properties with homestead exemptions under the bill’s language.

Further, the bill raises the eligibility requirement for mitigation grants to include homes with insured values of up to $700,000, up from $500,000; deletes a prior requirement that properties eligible for grants must be located in the “wind-borne debris region” and requires the Department of Financial Services to develop a quality assurance and reinspection program.

“After Hurricanes Ian and Nicole destroyed and severely damaged thousands of homes across the Sunshine State, the Florida Legislature has made it a priority to strengthen resilience against future storms,” said Bradenton Republican Sen. Jim Boyd, who ushered HB 881 through final passage on the Senate floor Friday.

“The My Safe Florida Home Program will help Floridians get prepared and prevent damage from severe weather by providing free home inspections and grants on recommended hurricane mitigation projects.”

Boyd sponsored an identical measure (SB 748), which received similarly uniform support. He laid that bill on the table in favor of one Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca carried through the Legislature’s lower chamber.

Lawmakers revived the 17-yearold program in May 2022 to help thousands of homeowners access free home inspections and money to replace their windows, doors and roofs. The program was originally conceived in 2006, when the Legislature assigned $250 million to the program, enough to cover some 400,000 inspections and 32,000 home upgrades.

But the program was slow to get going and plagued with scandals during the two years it existed through 2008, prompting lawmakers to defund it and fire the company it hired to conduct inspections after myriad homeowners who signed up were placed on a long waitlist and some were shortchanged on their bills.

The new iteration included an initial $150 million nonrecurring earmark from the General Revenue Fund last year: $115 million for hurricane mitigation grants, $25 million for inspections, $5 million for administrative costs, $4 million for education and consumer awareness and $1 million for public outreach to contractors, real estate brokers and sales associates.

While HB 881 does not include additional funding to the program, the Senate and House have agreed to set aside another $100 million in nonrecurring funds for the coming fiscal year.

Continued funding of the program and increasing grant amounts received bipartisan support — and sponsorship.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell filed a measure (HB 9A) with similar provisions for consideration during a Special Session on property insurance in December. Driskell’s bill would have doubled My Safe Florida Home Program funding to $300 million, created a Property Insurance Commission, levied heavy fines against insurers that make unfounded fraud claims and prevent an insurance company from claiming insolvency in Florida if it still offers coverage in another state.

The bill died unheard and without committee assignments.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • WhatNow

    May 5, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    How likely is it that a homeowner whose house would cost $700,000 to rebuild would be “low-income”?

Comments are closed.


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