House approves condo-focused expansion to My Safe Florida Home grant program

Lawmakers have earmarked $30M for the program if the bill passes.

Article Courtesy of Florida Politics

By Jesse Scheckner

Published March 4, 2024

Condo owners along Florida’s coast may soon be able to tap state dollars to strengthen their properties against seasonal storms, per legislation House lawmakers just approved.

The bill (HB 1029) authorizes the creation of the My Safe Florida Condominium Program, a pilot program that would provide condo associations within 15 miles of the shoreline with hurricane-mitigation inspections and guidance on roof- and entryway-improving grants.

The program is an offshoot of My Safe Florida Home, a 17-year-old home-hardening grant program lawmakers resurrected in 2022 and have since apportioned $433 million for roof-, door- and window-improving projects.

On Thursday, the House voted 116-0 for the bill. It will now be sent to the Senate.

Under the condo program, for every $1 an association spends on an upgrade, the state would spend $2. The state would also cover up to half the cost of roof-related projects and up to $1,500 per unit for doors and windows.

Grants would be capped at $175,000 per association. Lawmakers agreed Wednesday night to set aside $30 million for the program in the next state budget if the Legislature passes HB 1029 or its Senate analog (SB 1366) by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie.

Parkland Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who sponsored the measure with Miami Republican Rep. Vicki Lopez, said the bill is the result of a town hall she, Lopez and Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradleyheld in her district last year.

“We had over 150 people show up (and participate for) over two hours — lots of questions, lots of discussion,” she said. “We are at our best when we have policy that is coming from the concerns we’ve heard back home from the people we represent.”

Lopez said the aim of the bill is twofold: to enhance the safety of condos through inspection and mitigation efforts and, as a result, reduce their insurance premiums.

Hunschofsky and Lopez received plaudits from their fellow Representatives, several of whom recounted the difficulties their condo-domiciled constituents have faced.

“What you gals are doing,” said Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca, “is very important.”

Hollywood Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson said seniors in her district are at risk of being priced out of their homes because of high insurance rates and new reserve fund requirements.

“I’m sure a lot of them are watching right now, and they are grateful and thankful for the hard work that you have done in order to bring some relief to them,” she said. “This bill is so needed.”

HB 1029 and SB 1366, which awaits a Senate floor vote after clearing two committees with unanimous support, are part of a wave of legislation lawmakers filed following the June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside that killed 98 people.

Others include a measure Lopez is backing with Bradley to broaden condo board oversight and accountability and a controversial proposal by Miami Springs Republican Sen. Bryan Ávila and North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Spencer Roach that would allow the owners of locally designated historic structures to demolish and replace them with bigger, denser buildings that meet modern safety strictures.

Roach temporarily postponed consideration of his bill on the House floor Thursday.