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Dream Big!

Fight Hurricanes & High Property Insurance Rates

BizLine 2007
One powerful way to fight the battle against high property insurance rates is to reinforce homes to prepare them for a possible hurricane. The first step? “Educate yourself about ways to reinforce and strengthen properties, and then encourage local homeowners to make those upgrades,” says John Sebree, vice president of public policy at the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).

Real estate professionals can be valuable resources to buyers and sellers once they understand ways to make homes safer, more attractive to buy or sell and better candidates to be insured, Sebree adds.

For a hands-on education about construction techniques and other hurricane safety features, visit one of the four “Hurricane Houses” located across Florida. Visitors can see three types of window shutters,impact-resistant doors, a steel “safe room” and a garage door that withstands winds of more than 150 mph. Visitors can also look behind the scenes, or at least behind the walls, to see alternative construction methods, such as insulated concrete forms with reinforcement bars and concrete sandwiched between plastic foam sheets.

Visit Florida's Four Hurricane Homes:

Broward County
3205 College Ave.
Davie, FL 33314
(954) 577-6300

St. Lucie County
8400 Picos Rd.
Fort Pierce, FL 34945
(772) 462-1660

St. Johns County
3125 Agriculture
Center Dr.
St. Augustine, FL 32092
(904) 209-0432

Escambia County
3740 Stefani Rd.
Cantonment, FL 32533
(Near Pensacola)
(850) 475-5230

Funding the American Dream

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) SecretaryAlphonso Jackson announced in May that thousands of U.S. communities would share almost $1.8 billion to promote HUD’s affordable-housing and first-time homebuyer programs.

The total national funding of $1.76 billion will support HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) and American Dream Downpayment Initiative (ADDI) in fiscal year 2007.

HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to produce affordable housing for low-income families.

Since 1992, 645 communities have completed more than 781,000affordable-housing units, including more than 327,000 for new homebuyers. In addition, nearly 163,000 tenants have received direct rental assistance.

ADDI helps first-time homebuyers with a down payment and closing costs. The program was created to help low-income first-time homebuyers buy single-family homes by providing funds for a down payment, closing costs and rehabilitation carried out in conjunction with the assisted home purchase. Since the program’s inception, ADDI has helped approximately 23,000 households purchase their first home. For information, go to

How Florida Stacks Up
Eight Florida Cities Are Named America's Best Places to Live, a Web site that provides consumers with access to resources for their upcoming relocation, recently named eight Florida communities to its annual list of “America’s Top 100 Places to Live for 2007.” They are Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Cape Coral, Fruit Cove, Longwood, Sarasota, Tallahassee and The Villages.

The site received nominations for thousands of communities across the country, all vying to be part of the annual list. According to Steve Nickerson, president and CEO, selection criteria for this year’s list ranged from education to environmental friendliness as well as economic and housing considerations.

To make the list, a community must first be nominated by someone familiar with its benefits. Relocate-America’s editorial team then reviews the nominations for compelling reasons that would make the community a top place to live. Such descriptions often include references to a community’s: people and neighborhoods, beauty of the area, schools, activities, and economic and environmental health. For verification and ranking, the towns are also reviewed for education, crime, employment and housing data for the preceding year.

Anyone can nominate a town by visiting and completing the questionnaire.

Gators Win Again

Authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sander have named Gainesville the best place to live in the United States, identifying the college town as No. 1 out of 375 metropolitan areas in the latest edition of their book,“Cities Ranked & Rated.” Gainesville scored in several areas, with the authors lauding its “strong concentration of young people and active retirees.” Sperling and Sander considered cost of living, quality of life, climate, commute times, affordable housing, crime, growth and sprawl in calculating rankings.