Hurricane Ian could have ruined the financial security for thousands of Florida retirees who lost their life savings to flood- and wind-driven flooding.
Post-storm modeling from the analytics firm CoreLogic Inc. found that nearly 800,000 Florida homes saw hurricane force winds during the storm, with roughly 600,000 experiencing winds powerful enough to flatten a house.
The storm also had a disproportionate impact on older residents in some of the hardest-hit areas of the state, such as Lee and Collier counties, where nearly one in three residents is above age 65.
According to U.S. Census data, 29 percent of the population of Lee County, where Ian made landfall, is of retirement age. In Collier County, immediately to the south, that figure rises to 33 percent.
Experts believe that Florida’s senior boom, which began following World War II, has accelerated in recent years to reflect the region’s appeal to snowbirds and retirees fleeing from cold winter states. Florida has a lower cost of housing than other coastal states and no income tax.
Southwestern Florida saw the most rapid and concentrated growth. Many seniors bought homes in the hope that Florida’s real estate values would rise or stay steady. Many of their homes are gone so they can now consider renting, building, or buying new houses. This is despite rising prices for building materials, labor shortages, and what is expected be an acute housing shortage.
“While we are still counting the effects… it appears that Hurricane Ian has displaced thousands Floridians whose houses are now uninhabitable. This has taken not only their shelter, but also their financial safety nets with them,” CoreLogic’s Pete Carroll said in a webinar on Thursday.
Initial modeling from CoreLogic showed Ian’s total property losses from wind and flood at between $40 billion and $70 billion.
Flood loss from insured residential and commercial properties were estimated between $8 billion and $18 billion, while uninsured property losses were between $10 billion and $17 billion, the analysis found. Wind losses, mostly concentrated in near-coastal communities, were estimated at between $23 billion and $35 billion.
For homeowners with federal flood insurance policies–which are required in the highest flood-risk areas based on FEMA flood maps–payouts for residential buildings are capped at $250,000, Carroll said. Yet mortgaged property owners in the hardest hit areas of Lee and Collier counties have an average $316,500 in home equity.
Selma HEPPP, the interim chief economist at CoreLogic, stated in a blog last week that after a storm, disruptions to Florida’s housing markets could last for months or even years.
” We will see an increase in mortgage defaults as is common after catastrophes,” Hepp stated. “Rents will also likely to rise as households who have lost their homes seek shelter immediately. “
“Long-term home price growth is likely to be slower in hard-hit areas than elsewhere in the state and nation, as people may choose to move to areas more prone to natural catastrophes,” she said.
Gladys Cook is the director of resilience, disaster recovery, and community development for Florida Housing Coalition. She said that seniors make up a significant portion of low- and moderate-income residents who rely on affordable housing. In a telephone interview, Cook stated that many of these residents are “just returning home to their families or they might be leaving Florida.”
Cook, who lived in Lee County for 30 years, said she believes the number of seniors affected by the hurricane could be much higher than early estimates indicate.
” This loss is extraordinary,” she stated. “It will take years to find housing for all those .”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from