Panhandle Building Code in Dispute

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

The Florida panhandle may have a direct impact on your pocketbook of homeowners throughout the state.

Six years ago when the state passed a tough new building code, much of the panhandle was exempted. Now, a fight between the insurance industry and builders over how strongly homes are built in the panhandle has the governor and others crying foul.

The panhandle is exempt from the state’s tough building code, except near the coast. But after Ivan, state officials and the insurance industry have been calling for tough new building requirements further inland along what is called the ‘120 mile wind debris region.’ If adopted, tougher buildings would be the law in much of the panhandle.

Builders say adding tougher requirements in this thin, narrow band of land will increase the cost of houses by five or ten thousand dollars without offering any increased protection.

Douglas Buck represents the Florida Homebuilders Association and says, “There is no long-term cost benefit to the consumer in the 120 mile an hour zone. The additional protections don’t, in a aggregate way, don’t offer those protection to offset those costs.”

But the governor, along with insurance execs, say that without the tough standards, every insurance customer in the state will pay for hurricane losses in the panhandle and that insurance will be harder for everyone to get.

Leslie Chapman Henderson of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes says, “In parts of the state with the strong codes, we all have to take our personal responsibility: buy shutters or take protective measures. That’s not going to be required in the panhandle so the damage that happens will happen at lower wind speeds and sooner.”

The Florida Building Code Commission has agreed to tougher building requirements in the western panhandle, but critics say that isn’t enough and they want the board to reconsider its vote in late August.

The vote by the Florida Building Commission wasn’t even close; it was 15 to three against the requirement for tougher building standards in the panhandle.

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