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Florida coastal living reshaped by hurricane housing codes

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Trixie Parkes’ 1976 wood-frame cottage has long been her home and main source of income. Because her two units on the top floor were rented to tourists. But when Hurricane Her Ian hit her in late September, most of the ground floor was destroyed, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of the second floor. She didn’t have flood insurance, which made her premiums too high after 2017’s Hurricane Her Irma.

Parks, 59, plans to sell his property. “I have a great place,” she said. “Maybe someone will come and offer me a lot of money, so I can leave.”

Five blocks away stands a nearly $2 million house that survived the storm with little damage. Fernando Gonzalez built a two-story concrete block house six years ago that exceeded the building codes of the time.

Destroyed homes following Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, USA, Tuesday, October 4, 2022. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Getty Images)

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Instead of lifting the house 12 feet when necessary, he said he lifted it another 4 feet. He also built a foundation stronger than mandated, he dug six feet below the ground, installed thick concrete walls in place of posts, and vents to allow water to flow in case of storm surge. was established. He estimates that such upgrades added about $15,000 to construction costs.

“If you want to live in luxury by the sea, you have to pay,” said Gonzalez, 57.

Powerful hurricanes and strict building codes have arrived one after another, Economic and demographic change of coastal communities in Florida. Cheaper cottages that are vulnerable to stormy weather are being replaced by more resilient and more expensive housing, a transition that is strengthening the housing stock but limiting who can afford to live on the coast.

Aerial shot of the wreckage of Hurricane Ian

This aerial image shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday, September 29, 2022. ((AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) / AP Newsroom)

Adding to the cost are skyrocketing premiums for homeowners and flood insurance.

After Hurricane Andrew destroyed tens of thousands of homes in the Miami area in 1992, Florida’s building codes are among the strictest in the United States. The Code, which came into force in 2002 and is updated every three years, establishes minimum standards that local governments must comply with.

The latest version, adopted in 2020, includes provisions to seal the roof deck to keep water out, install impact-resistant windows and shutters, and ensure a strong connection between the roof, walls and foundation. Includes long-standing requirements.Chief Engineer of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, an industry-backed research group. It also includes provisions to prevent flood hazards, such as lifting structures above a certain height.

florida business

Owner Robert Ledger walks into what used to be a gift shop at Getaway Marina in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Thursday, September 29, 2022. Florida coast. ((Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) / AP Newsroom)

According to the Census Bureau and the National Hurricane Center, in the areas of southwest and central Florida falling within Ian’s Hurricane Force Swath, an estimated 69% of residential units were built in 2000, two years before the statewide building code went into effect. It was built years ago. data.

A study by the University of Florida and other researchers published in August found that coastal areas of the United States, prone to storms and rising sea levels, are developing and becoming more densely populated than non-coastal areas. As a result, building structures are increasingly exposed to natural disasters.

About 33 million homes worth nearly $10.5 trillion in reconstruction costs are at risk of hurricane wind damage, according to a June report from real estate data firm CoreLogic. About 7.8 million homes with reconstruction costs exceeding $2.3 trillion are at risk of storm surge damage, according to the report.


A CoreLogic analysis earlier this month estimated that: Flood and wind loss from Ian Many homeowners do not have flood insurance, which is expected to range from $41 billion to $70 billion, including $10 billion to $17 billion in uninsured flood losses.

Tom Larsen, Senior Director of Hazard and Risk Management at CoreLogic, said: “People leave and don’t come back.”

Mexico Beach, Florida’s panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018, has since imposed code changes. The city now requires new homes to be built 1.5 feet above the highest point of adjacent roads in many areas, and certain low-lying homes need to be significantly higher. Also, the wind speeds that new homes must withstand have increased from 130 mph to 140 mph.

Locals have sought to preserve the character of Mexico Beach, where cottages, seafood spots, retired teachers, military personnel, and others are drawn to the affordable beachfront lifestyle. Authorities continued to ban the development of high-rise buildings.

But they couldn’t stop the change. Some homeowners without insurance have sold and moved out. Investors bought land and built more luxurious homes for rent. A new gated community is being born.

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The average selling price of a home in the area that includes Mexico Beach rose from $271,000 in 2019 to $453,000 in 2021, according to data compiled by local firm 98 Real Estate Group. There will be 10 home sales over $1 million in 2021, and this year he has had two home sales over $2 million.

“The building was incredible,” said Bobby Pollock, a member of the Mexico Beach City Council.

A similar trend could unfold in the Fort Myers area, said Mark Wilson, president of London Bay Development Group, a real estate developer based in Naples, Florida. Starting at $1.3 million each. The nearly completed building has held up well to Ian and has a separation wall designed to collapse in the event of a severe storm surge, he said, and it worked as expected.

Next year, the company will break ground on the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Estero Bay to the south, with units starting at $2.8 million.

Wilson said that because older homes in the Fort Myers area are being demolished, new homes will cost significantly more.

James and Becky Reed purchased a wooden bungalow a few blocks from the ocean in Fort Myers Beach for $150,000 in 2000 and moved out of Tennessee to retire. The beach community, with its palm-lined streets and candy-colored cottages, was a slice of affordable Florida.

Hurricane Ian blew out the walls and windows on the first floor of Reedyashiki, stripped the siding on the second floor, and saturated the interior drywall. The couple have homeowners, flood insuranceInsurance premiums total about $8,200 a year, and current building codes likely won’t pay enough to cover the cost of rebuilding, they said.

Romaine Turner, 84, said neighbor Romain Turner, 84, said the storm surge blew a nearby wooden cottage from its foundation and two elderly residents out of their windows. She said neither she nor her husband had any plans to come back.

The island community of Matlacha, north of Fort Myers Beach, clings to its identity as a mix of fishing village and artistic outpost. The brightly colored buildings house restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries. Residents enjoy a laid-back lifestyle, kayaking along the mangroves or lounging on the waterfront deck at sunset.

A hurricane upended it, destroying homes and businesses. Richard and Sonya Giannone purchased a house there last year and planned to convert it into their first residence. In May they purchased a gallery down the street to display Stained his glass, jewelry and pottery.

A storm caused the ground beneath the house to collapse, causing parts of the house to fall into the water. Whether it will be saved remains to be seen. The gallery was flooded, but the structure of the building remained intact. Giannones focused on trying to save it by bringing crew members in to lift the floor and cut out the wall panels, and running a dehumidifier to keep the mold from spreading.

Neither property had flood or wind damage coverage, so they are prepared for financial blows. “There is not much we can do now,” said Giannone, 76.

A few blocks away, Christina Lyle’s house received about a foot and a half of water that covered the floors and furniture with sludge. She said she was attracted to Matlacha, her sixth generation Floridian who purchased the place four years ago.

“This is home. It’s cozy and everyone cares about each other,” said Lyle, 50. She often fishes during the day, goes to her coffee shop, or stops at local shops. She recently joined a civic group of women called Matlacha Her Hookers (named after the fish hook) that raise funds for local causes.


Lyle said her home is covered by homeowners and flood insurance and plans to rebuild it, but it’s unclear how long she’ll be staying. In addition, I am worried that Matlacha will change due to the effects of the hurricane.

“Hopefully it won’t be a skyscraper when reconstruction starts,” she said.

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