MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Homeowners faced off against the state’s largest insurance company at a public hearing in Miami Thursday.  Florida regulators held a forum on Citizens’ proposed rate hike.

Citizens has asked the state to raise rates for homeowners in coastal areas that are at a higher risk of hurricane damage.  Citizens is seeking a statewide average rate increase of 11.1 percent. The rates will differ depending on the homeowners’ location.  Citizens’ Chief Financial officer Sharon Binnun told the state’s office of insurance regulation it needs to raise rates to cover the cost of possible disasters.

“It is a fact that Citizens could have more dollars in hurricane losses after a catastrophe than we do in resources,” Binnun said.

Many homeowners say they simply can’t afford the increases.  Protesters chanted and held signs reading “No more” outside the hearing on the campus of Miami-DadeCollege.

“I  think everybody’s upset at this point about how many rate increases we’ve had over the past couple years with citizens,” said Vanessa Brito of Miami Voice , who was protesting the rate hike.

Fernando Gonzalez spoke at the hearing saying, “We’d have to sell the house and move,” if Citizens raises rates.

Citizens wants a similar increase for mobile homes, condominium associations, and other commercial residential, and non-residential properties.   Thursday’s public hearing was one of several that will take place across the state.   The state is expected to make a final decision in the next couple of weeks.

Citizens was initially created to be the insurer of last resort, but after most private companies either pulled out of Florida or raised rates to levels no one could pay, the state-backed insurer has grown to 1.5 million policies.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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