Lawmakers are considering a My Safe Florida Condo pilot program that would help condo associations “harden” their buildings against severe weather.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Condominium associations near Florida’s coast will get access to $175,000 per association in state funds for stormproofing projects under a House bill that’s nearing the finish line.

The Senate version of the bill does not have a cap.

The “My Safe Florida Condominium Pilot Program” would provide condo associations with the type of financial assistance currently available only to owners of single-family homes and townhomes who install new roofs and storm-resistant windows, doors and garage doors.

But the $25 million currently proposed for the program would be enough to help only a tiny fraction of the state’s 27,588 condo associations.

That could change, said the bill’s co-sponsor, State Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, a Democrat who represents Parkland, Margate and Coconut Creek in Broward County.

The $25 million was requested by the Department of Financial Services in the General Appropriations Act that’s currently winding its way through the Legislature.

“That’s the amount allocated in the preliminary proposed budget,” Hunschofsky said on Tuesday. “We obviously won’t know (the actual outlay) until the final budget passes and is signed by the governor.”

Hunschofsky, who is co-sponsoring the House bill with Rep. Vicki Lopez, a Republican from Miami-Dade County, told members of the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee earlier this month that the idea came about during town hall meetings she attended last summer with state Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Rep. Lopez. They spoke to 150 condominium residents, Hunschofsky said.

Hunschofsky told the State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, “The question came: ‘Why can’t they access this grant program?’ because they’re homeowners … just like anybody else.”

Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, a Democrat representing a section of southern Broward County, told the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee that the program would help families and seniors living in condominiums that have been hit by increasing insurance costs and assessments related to a new law, enacted after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside in June 2021, that will require associations to maintain mandatory reserves for future improvements.

The House version of the bill was approved by both committees. Its only stop left is the Commerce Committee, which is meeting on Thursday. if approved, it would head to a full House vote.

The Senate version, sponsored by Nick DiCeglie, a Republican from Pinellas County, cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee earlier this month and has been fast-tracked to the Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to hear it on Thursday before forwarding it, if approved, to the full Senate.

The program would operate in a fashion similar to the My Safe Florida Home program, except majority votes of condo association boards or unit owners would be required to participate. Unit owners may not participate individually.

The House bill states that if the grant stands to benefit “one or more” individual units in a building, the association must obtain unanimous approval of all unit owners in the building. The Senate version requires unanimous approval from unit owners in the structure or building that would benefit from the proposed improvements.

The House bill calls for the program to be available only to condo buildings within 15 miles of Florida’s coast. It would cap grants at 50% of the cost of roof-related projects and opening protection retrofits and set a maximum grant of $175,000.

The Senate version includes no cap or maximum grant.

Differences between the House and Senate bills would have to be resolved before a single bill could be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Both versions would fund a windstorm mitigation inspection by a certified inspector who would then identify ways to make the property more resistant to hurricane damage.

The association would then apply for a grant by submitting the name and license number of its selected contractor to the Department of Financial Services, along with a notarized statement from the president of the association affirming that the improvements will be completed.

After the grant is approved, the association would have a year to complete the project or request an extension. Once improvements are complete, another inspection will ensure the project adheres to requirements of the program and the Florida Building Code.

If the upgrades check out, then the association would get its check.

Like the My Safe Florida Home program, the condo program would be overseen by the Department of Financial Services, which has requested $25 million for grants, $1.4 million for administration, and $600,000 for inspections.

While the program budget could still be increased during the current legislative session, $25 million would fund 142 grants of $175,000 each. The House version of the bill requires the program to stop accepting grant applications once all available money is committed.

To pay for the match required to obtain grants, associations will have to dip into their reserve funds or levy special assessments.

© 2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Go to Source
Author: marlam