Century Village seniors pack meeting
Florida's insurance crisis
Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published August 18, 2006
Several hundred residents of Century Village,
a large retirement community west of West Palm Beach, turned out Thursday
for a town hall meeting on Florida's escalating property insurance rates.
A few people expressed fear residents could lose their homes if they can't
afford dramatically higher prices for windstorm insurance, especially
those on fixed incomes.
Century Village residents already are paying rate increases of more than
400 percent, but there is relief in sight because of changes in how the
state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will assess condo
associations, including those in Century Village.
The town hall meeting was sponsored by a contingent of Palm Beach County
Democratic legislators, including state Sen. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, and
state Rep. Priscilla Taylor, D-West Palm Beach, who are seeking a special
legislative session to address insurance reform. Klein is running for a
congressional seat, and no one qualified in July to run against Taylor,
who won another two-year term in the state Legislature.
The legislators urged attendees to write Gov. Jeb Bush and state House and
Senate leaders to push for a special session. They referred residents to
www.stormingmad.com, a Web site sponsored by the Florida Democratic Party,
to learn more about the issue and e-mail legislators.
"There is power in numbers," state Rep. Shelley Vana, D-Lantana,
told the audience.
"You are not alone in having these skyrocketing rates," said
Vana, who is running for re-election. "As more people get their
insurance rates, the pain increases."
State Rep. Susan Bucher, D-Royal Palm Beach, said the Republican-dominated
Legislature did not want to take up Democratic insurance reforms this past
spring during the legislative session.
"I believe property insurance was the most important issue we had to
address this year," said Bucher, who won another two-year term when
no one filed to run against her.
She said Citizens is quickly becoming the largest insurer in the state,
something it was not designed to be, and that it is not helping keep rates
stable. By law, Citizens' rates are higher than those offered by private
insurance companies. Major insurers in the state are seeking significant
rate increases for homeowners, or already have gotten increases approved.
Roberta Fromkin, who is co-president of her homeowners association in
Century Village, said the policy for their nine buildings went from
roughly $200,000 to more than $800,000.
She said the owners of the 56 units in her building will pay an extra $110
a month -- on top of the $60 a month they already pay -- from September
through December to pay for their Citizens insurance. However, changes
just announced by Citizens could lower her association's rate.
George Loewenstein, president of the umbrella group of homeowners
associations in Century Village, said all 309 associations in Century
Village will be switching over to Citizens by the end of the year and
could face significant increases affecting all 7,854 condos in the
community. He told residents they could face significant increases and to
budget for them.
The hit on their pocketbooks was the biggest concern among the group of
retirees. Loewenstein said an estimated 20 percent of the condo owners in
Century Village already have difficulty paying their monthly fees, and
that a small fund set up to help those people is being rapidly depleted.
Resident Eileen Gordon said some residents already are afraid to spend at
the grocery store, knowing they need to save for insurance increases. She
expressed the concerns on so many minds when she asked what would happen
to people who could not afford the increases.
"Are they going to lose their homes?" she asked. "Are they
going to lose everything?"