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“Andrew Aftermath” Cheap Insurance Gone with the Wind

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Hurricane Andrew: A nightmare for anyone who went thru it and a life-changing event that’s not easily forgotten as we approach its’ 20th Anniversarry.

South Miami Heights Homeowner Larry Jones remembers ” We was praying, we was actually praying more so for us, our neighbors, our relatives because we never faced a storm like Hurricane Andrew before.”

Falls resident Bobbi Stanley never imaged her neighborhood would be hit so hard and recalls ” You could not recognize the neighborhood. It was just mind boggling. I started to cry, it was horrible, it was really horrible”.

Charles Danger, Miami-Dade’s Director of Building and Neighborhood Compliance Department, says he never imaged the destruction would be so widespread and adds ” It was like an atomic bomb went off up there..It was an amazing sight from the point of view of complete devastation.”

If you went thru Hurricane Andrew like I did, the past 2 decades have gone by in little more than a blink of the eye.

20 years later, the bitter legacy of the killer storm still effects us all:

More than 28-thousand local homes destroyed, another 107-thousand damaged with as many as 160-thousand South Dade residents suddenly found themselves homeless.

Why were so many homes literally blown apart, what went wrong?

Hurricane Andrew brutally exposed a failed system: bad designs….shoddy construction..poor oversight by local inspectors. It was a recipe for disaster.

Charlie Danger agrees and adds ” We did not build things the way they were supposed to be built according to the code we had. That we were very relaxed in the construction techniques, very relaxed on the inspection techniques, so it was a complete failure, you may say, on the process of construction from the point of designing all the way to the point of inspecting”

With some $26-Billion dollars in damage, Hurricane Andrew remains one of the costliest natural disasters in U-S history.

We’re still paying the price today in the form of higher homeowners’ insurance.

South Florida Insurance Industry Veteran Dulce Suarez-Resnick explains ” 20 years later you’re definitely feeling the effects, definitely. Because we have not been able to fix the problem”.

How bad have insurance rates climbed the past 20 years?

The average Miami-Dade homeowners’ policy cost $568 back in 1992.

Today, it’s skyrocketed to $3184.

Broward was even less back then at at $500, but it now averages $2804.

Bobbi Stanley remembers the killer storm like it was yesterday.

Her insurance bill 20 years ago was $751 dollars.

Today, it’s more than $10,000 bucks and she says hurting her families’ financial bottom line.” It’s outrageous, I don’t know how people can afford it. I mean it’s really, really unbelievable.

I love my house, I always wanted to stay in my house and just recently I say to my husband..maybe it’s time that we don’t have a house because it’s just getting prohibitive. I asked if she was literally being priced out of her home? It didn’t take long for an answer: “Yes, absolutely and so are a lot of other people.

Like so many other South Dade residents who lost their homes, when I rebuilt,  I  wanted to make sure the roof would stay-on the next time i got hit by a bad storm.

I paid extra for storm shutters and other improvements to make my home more storm proof.

Larry Jones did too and explains ” We never experienced a Hurricane Andrew and since that time..we wanted to make sure if there was another Hurricane Andrew, we’d be able to weather the storm a lot safer.”

For a while, Larry’s extra work to improve his home’s construction paid off.

He was able to cut his insurance bills by about 30% thru the state’s windstorm mitigation program which offered discounts for storm shutters and roof improvements.

But following complaints from the industry and heavy lobbying in the Florida legislature, those discounts for older homes like thousands of Hurricane Andrew re-builds were basically thrown out.

Larry Jones is not happy about how it’s effected his growing insurance bills and says ” 20 years later you can forget about it,  you know what I mean? They came back in and did re-inspections on a home for mitigation just so they can say we’re going to increase your home’s premiums. This really isn’t fair and they’ve made millions and billions of dollars thru out the course of the year.

Industry insiders tell me fixing the state’s insurance problem requires luring more companies to insure homes here…increasing competition and lowering rates.

It also requires a way to lower the cost of companies so-called re-insurance expenses, so they can find cheaper ways of underwriting our homeowners’ policies.

There’s also been discussions of a national catastrophe fund to provide affordable coverage for disasters like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.

But state and federal lawmakers remain unable or unwilling to approve any possible fixes.

Insurance Executive Dulce Suarez Resnick  says State Lawmakers have done little to try and solve the problem.

“20 years later our premiums are high, 20 years later the state program has less coverage for more premiums and 20 years later we still have a band-aid..there’s no solution as of yet” she expalins.

Today, the state’s biggest insurer, Citizens’ is asking to boost rates by another 10% for next years’ policies.

The head of “Citizens” recently told me he’d like to see a full 30% price hike.

For the victims of Hurricane Andrew, it’s a bitter reminder 20 years later..the big storm is still haunting them.

Larry Jones adds ” Our elected officials give them all the breaks. You’ve got board members of these insurance companies living very luxurious, there’s nothing wrong with living very luxurious. But when it’s on the back of the people that’s an issue. And this is what’s taking place in the State of Florida, It’s on the backs of the people and that’s  sad”.

Bobbi Stanley agrees explaining ” I don’t see them addressing the issues at all as far as stabilizing it. All I see is them approving more and more increases for the insurance companies. I asked who’s interest do you think are being served? She answered,  “The insurance companies, at our expense, consumers expense.”

But Larry Jones also knows “No doubt about it, we’re blessed and our relatives our friends, and relatives and neighbors are really blessed to go thru Hurricane Andrew and really to stand here 20 years later almost and say we survived.”

While homeowners struggle to find affordable insurance 2 decades after Andrew, Industry Profits continue to soar.

Combined income for Private Property Insurers like State Farm, Allstate..and Travelers was about $3-point-2 billion dollars just for their 2nd quarter profits.

Citizens Insurance is now sitting on more than $6 billion dollars in reserves and continues asking for higher rates.

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