Amid property-insurance crisis, mobile-home owners and hurricane shelters get some attention

By: - May 27, 2022 2:00 pm

Hurricane Charley destroyed this mobile home in 2004, when four hurricanes struck Florida in six weeks. Credit: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report

Overshadowed by the statewide crisis in Florida’s property-insurance market, legislation to make mobile homes and manufactured homes safer during strong storms was signed into law Wednesday. The new law also lets state funding be used not only for retrofitting of hurricane shelters but also for construction of new ones.

Sponsored by Palm Beach County Democrat Matt Willhite, House Bill 837 extends the life of Florida’s “Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program.” In addition, the proposed 2022-23 budget, if approved, appropriates $7 million in the coming budget year to inspect and improve tie-downs proven to make mobile homes and manufactured homes less vulnerable to hurricanes, tornados and flooding. Secure tie-downs help such homes stay anchored during strong storms.

The aid is so in demand that there is a five-year waiting list of applicants, according to legislative analyses.

“HB 837 is a crucial policy initiative that funds and extends Florida’s Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program. In addition to funding the HLMP for another 10 years, an additional allocation of $7 million in non-recurring funds was appropriated towards the Mobile Home Tie-Down Program to reduce the approximately 122 communities on the wait list,” Rep. Willhite announced Thursday after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law Wednesday.

“With an affordable housing crisis looming over the entire state, I am proud that these funds will help inspect and improve tie-downs for the safety of our residents.”

HB 837 extends provisions of the “Manufactured Housing and Mobile Home Mitigation and Enhancement Program” to shore up “areas of concern” identified in Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles studies of hurricane and tornado impacts on such homes in 2004 and 2005, when Florida was hit by multiple hurricanes including Charley, Dennis, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.

From the 2004 report: Of the 29,275 mobile homes assessed in a sample of 152 mobile-home parks, 3,583 (12.24 percent) were totally destroyed or not repairable. More than 4,000 others built since 1994 to higher standards sustained minor or no damage, the report says.

Willhite’s bill aims to make mitigation and enhancements more readily available so that more homes meet the higher standards.

“The mitigation or enhancement must include, but need not be limited to, problems associated with weakened trusses, studs, and other structural components caused by wood rot or termite damage; site-built additions; or tie-down systems and may also address any other issues deemed appropriate,” the bills says. Such improvements will not only make the homes safer but also will help more of them qualify for insurance coverage through the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

In related news Friday: Multiple homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in Brevard County after a brush fire flared out of control, according to regional news sources, including WESH of Orlando.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.