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Monday, July 22, 2024

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The Wrap: Homeowners Insurance, Airbnb vs. Vrbo, School Meals

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By Herald Staff

Get The Wrap,” our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday.

Homeowners Insurance

A March report from the Consumer Federation of America shows that the nation has a conservatively estimated $1.6 trillion in uninsured homes. The report says 1 in 13, or 7.4% of homes across the country, are foregoing insurance, largely because they can no longer afford it. Statistics for New Jersey are slightly better, with most estimates placing the Garden State’s numbers at 6% without insurance.

The major part of the problem has been a relentless rise in the cost of property insurance due to actual and feared losses related to climate change. In 2023 property insurance rates rose an average of 11.4%, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market, with 25 states seeing rate hikes of 10% or greater. In a June letter to Congress, two dozen housing industry groups, including the National Association of Home Builders, urged an investigation into rising premiums.

The Census Bureau reported in June that 227,962 homeowners in New Jersey are without home insurance. A New York Times analysis shows that insurance companies are still able to make a profit in New Jersey, but the level of profitability continues to fall each year.

“Going bare,” a term for unprotected home market value, is projected to worsen in coming years. The numbers have reached levels where the issue is a matter of public policy since large percentages of uninsured homes present a threat not just to the homeowner but also to communities and the ability to respond to needs in the national housing stock.

According to federal data since 2018, New Jersey has seen four years of at least $4 billion disaster events per year. At this rate the home insurance crisis, which is already spreading to New Jersey, is likely to get worse.

We can add to the problem the rising cost of flood insurance in coastal areas, where state land use regulations are about to increase inundation zones, putting pressure on the National Flood Insurance Program. Currently about 12% to 14% of homeowners are covered for flood damage.

Airbnb vs. Vrbo

A May snapshot of Cape May County short-term rental properties listed on either Airbnb or Vrbo showed more than 7,500 available rentals, with 80% of them in the county’s island communities and with the Wildwoods leading the way with 2,400 listings. The data comes from AirDNA, a short-term rental data and analysis provider.

The two short-term rental platforms have actually been around for longer than many of us might think. Vrbo made an appearance in 1995. Airbnb followed about a decade later. Since then Airbnb has grown to be the undisputed leader in listings. An analysis by Lighthouse, a rate intelligence provider for the accommodations industry, showed Airbnb is second only to Marriott in the battle for market share.

Airbnb may have the most listings nationwide, but Vrbo is strong in mountain and coastal areas, where it has 70% of its listings. Even with its concentration on coastal areas, Vrbo cannot compete with the numbers of properties on Airbnb. A search for available rentals on Cape May Island for two people for the second week in September returned 300-plus properties on Vrbo and 1,000 on Airbnb.

AirDNA has done a comparison of the two platforms that allows those considering offering short-term rentals to compare the pros and cons of each platform.

School Meals

The basic program of providing school meals is under pressure given the rising costs for food, materials and maintenance that are making feeding kids in school more expensive each year.

State data shows that Cape May County schools have an average of 36% of students who meet the definition of economically disadvantaged. They are entitled to free or reduced-cost lunch. In two districts, Wildwood and Woodbine, the percentage of students who qualify is more than 75%. The numbers are part of the school performance reports from the state Department of Education.

Now the USDA’s updated nutrition standards are going to add to the growing cost of school districts’ providing meals for all students. The new standards go into effect July 1, with the gradual changes really having an impact in 2025 and beyond. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, the added costs nationwide will equal about $206 million.

The changes include new limits on added sugars and sodium in school meals. The congressional report says the requirements to reduce sugars and sodium will be the largest single driver of added costs. This comes on top of changing purchasing patterns, staffing and new administrative costs.

Happenings

Wildwood officials say that the city’s new backpack ban is making a difference in controlling undesirable behavior by groups of juveniles. Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the police chief was concerned that if backpacks were allowed on the boardwalk, state regulations would not provide police with ways to know what was in them.

Cape May City gave high percentage raises as part of new contracts for its police chief, fire chief and deputy fire chief, all in an effort to bring their salaries into line with what their counterparts are paid across the county. Mayor Zack Mullock said increases after this adjustment would be limited to 3%.

Avalon may face litigation as it seeks to relocate an outflow pipe that the borough says has failed. The owner of one property had an attorney inform the Borough Council that any movement of the pipe toward his client’s property would be contested.

Wildwood has brought in former mayor and retired business manager for the county Ed Grant to help get it on a stable footing, after going more than five months without a business administrator.

The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, the 5-Mile Island’s oldest structure – it was designed by the draftsman who later gained fame for designing the Library of Congress – is marking its 150th anniversary year.

The maintenance team at Morey’s Piers shows up nearly every day of the year to keep away the frightful byproducts of the salt air: Rust and rot, both deadly to the rollercoasters that launch guests at highway speeds. The story of the coasters’ maintenance is a remarkable one.

The proposed 80,000-square-foot Aviation Sports Complex at the Cape May Airport is progressing, but not as fast as the developers of the complex would like.

Avalon has received a report that rebuts charges of favoritism and other allegations regarding the leasing of boat slips at the borough-owned Sports Fishing Center.

Three Cape May fishermen have won a precedent-smashing decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that frees them from the expense of federal monitors on their boat and weakens the authority of regulatory agencies.

Cape May County wants to regain control of the 1,000-acre Cape May County Airport but would like the Delaware River and Bay Authority to run the “air side” of the property. At this juncture, DRBA has said it is not interested in being the airport’s operator.

A 29-year-old Pennsylvania woman was charged with creating a false public alarm after she reported seeing a juvenile with a gun on the North Wildwood boardwalk. The claim was false, but police shut down Surfside Pier as a precaution.

The community is rallying to the aid of an Upper Township family whose 3-year-old son was seriously injured when he was struck by a riding mower. On June 13, Dylan Vanderhaeghen’s mother, Christine Lynch, posted that Dylan had made his 17th trip to the operating room.

Spout Off of the Week

Cape May County – Thanks to 3 fisherman ending a 40 year precedent federal agencies can no longer terrorize the American people with unelected officials making the rules. Congress makes the rules, the senate passes them and the president signs them. The government officials got way more than they bargained for when they thought they could steamroll these 3 brave people, but they couldn’t. I and we owe them a debt of gratitude that can’t be repaid. We’ve seen far too many agencies start with good intentions and spiral quickly, perhaps drunk with power. Recognize what has happened here and what it means to us all

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Avalon – We said it all along!! President Harris.

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Sea Isle City – Joe out. Bye Felicia.

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Lower Township – ANOTHER Joe Biden Lie!!! "Oh I'm NOT going anywhere"!!! We're gonna beat Donald Trump! Who lied? And about what?

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