WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James held a community conversation at City Hall on Monday concerning the current property insurance crisis in Florida.
"Obviously, as mayor of the city, I have no control over the price of premiums," James said. "But I thought it was certainly within my responsibility and duty to at least see if I can convene and get the parties together."
Along with about 30 people who responded to an open online invitation were state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, state Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard, Citizens Insurance Chief of Communications Christine Ashburn, Southeast Florida Regional Manager for Department of Financial Services Lucdwin Luck and West Palm Resiliency Manager Penelope Redford.
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"I'd like to hear some ideas on how we can make it more affordable," Sal Faso, president of the North County Neighborhood Coalition, said, "as opposed to wondering if next year will I have an insurance policy."
Florida lawmakers, led by a GOP majority, enacted reforms this year to try and curb litigation fraud, which Republicans insist is helping to drive up costs.
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"We hope we have more insurers coming in, more competition and therefore reducing insurance rates," Caruso said.
However, he admits it may take some time.
"We're not going to feel the effect of it for probably four or five years," Caruso said.
He added that lawmakers will likely revisit the issue in next year's session.
Ashburn admitted that Citizens Insurance is not comfortable being the biggest insurer in the state — with close to 1.4 million policies — as it tries to move more policyholders to private insurance.
She also tried to explain some of the rising costs are the result of inflation and soaring home appreciation in Florida.
"Almost all my increase in cost was because of the value it would take to rebuild my home had gone up so much," Ashburn said.