Wendy Richardson lowers her voice.
She cannot hold back the anger. She doesn't even try.
"It's a shame taxes and insurance will make us move out of our home," she said of the three-bedroom, pool home she and her husband, Larry, 53, bought less than two years ago. "It's just killing us."
The couple lost the 15-year tax cap protection they had on their Golden Gate home when they sold it to escape crime and moved into Berkshire Lakes in East Naples.
Homeowners who make Florida their primary residence qualify for a homestead exemption, which triggers an annual cap on property tax assessments to a maximum of 3 percent. But the protection scales are reset at zero when the homeowner buys a new home.
By the time the Richardsons got tax protection on their new house, their tax bill had shot up to four times what it was.
They tried to fight the property appraiser's $349,000 assessment, pointing out that the house had sold for $282,000 eight months before they bought it in March 2005 for $395,000.
"We knew (taxes) were going to go up, but we didn't think they would quadruple," Wendy Richardson, 50, said.
Then rising insurance rates dealt another blow to the Richardsons, who were profiled for an earlier segment of the "Paradise at What Cost?" series.
Now they are paying as much in taxes and insurance as they are in mortgage payments.
Throw in the homeowner's association fee, and the house that Collier County's talking heads would call "affordable" won't be affordable for the Richardsons once they retire within 15 years.
On top of that, the Richardsons are considered essential service personnel. She has worked for the Collier County School District for 15 years. He has been a biologist with the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge for 17 years. Together they bring in almost $100,000 a year.
But that's not enough to keep their home. Not if they ever plan to quit working.
When they tried to appeal their tax bill, they contended they had been forced from their Golden Gate home because the county hadn't protected them from crime. They argued that there was a drug house on the street and their car had been stolen from their driveway.
"It got to the point that we were not safe," Wendy said.
But county officials told the couple that their Berkshire Lakes home could be assessed at the entire $395,000 they paid for it.
"The county doesn't care," Wendy Richardson said, her voice lowering and the anger rising. "They are just looking to get their slice."
AFFORDABLE HOUSING MULTIMEDIA
- DATABASE: Search our real estate database
- VIDEO: Several factors affecting how and where people can build and buy
- VIDEO: Environmental concerns affect housing
- VIDEO: Possible solutions for affordable housing
- VIDEO: Affordable Housing communities
- VIDEO: A softer market could help affordable housing
- VIDEO: Studio 55 report: Inside the Story
- VIDEO: Affordable Housing report
- VIDEO: Cedar Bay Marina
- VIDEO: Commissioners tour Immokalee
- VODCAST: Watch the October 13th edition of 'Studio 55' for a video report about the affordable housing crisis in Southwest Florida.
- PODCAST: Hear an in-depth report about Part 8 of the Daily News' year-long series looking into affordable housing in Southwest Florida.
- PODCAST: Hear a podcast interview about home loans
- PODCAST: Housing database search
- PODCAST: Overview of the affordable housing problem
- PODCAST: A preview of the series
- COMMUNITY VIGNETTES: 40 area residents give their thoughts on the affordable-housing issue
- PHOTO GALLERY: What is your solution to the affordable housing problem in Southwest Florida?
- PHOTO GALLERY: What they are doing?
- PHOTO GALLERY: Affordable Housing graphics
- POLL: Should Collier adopt inclusionary zoning, in which developers must either devote 15 percent of the housing in a new development to affordable housing or pay their way out of the requirement?
- READER COMMENTS: Does it cost too much to live here?
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING FRONT PAGE: PDF | JPG
- VIDEOS: Watch video reports about the affordable housing problem
- PODCASTS: Listen to in-depth reports about the lack of affordable housing
- PHOTO GALLERIES: View all affordable housing photos
- EXPANDED COVERAGE: Read more stories and get more coverage on affordable housing
AFFORDABLE HOUSING STORIES
- RELATED: Mortgage foreclosures are up, and a working class is scarce
- RELATED: Cooling market brings little relief to working-class families (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: New view, same problem (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: Bills, babies and trailers (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: Affordable? It's always relative here (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: Lawmakers to address affordable housing (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: Affordable housing solutions: What is being considered? (Dec. 31, 2006)
- RELATED: It's 'exhausting' (12-17-06)
- RELATED: Hospitals get creative with recruitment (12-17-06)
- RELATED: What they're saying: Liz Kubiak, registered nurse (12-17-06)
- RELATED: What they're saying: Gayle Sweeney, dentist receptionist (12-17-06)
- RELATED: What they're saying: Todd Layton, paramedic/firefighter (12-17-06)
- RELATED: Housing for teachers a priority (11-27-06)
- RELATED: Big plans for teachers, little results (11-27-06)
- RELATED: Housing outlook for educators is grim (11-26-06)
- RELATED: Naples: Teachers' salaries, prices don't add up (11-26-06)
- RELATED: Bonita: Teachers' salaries, prices don't add up (11-26-06)
- RELATED: Part 1: The Crisis
- RELATED: Part 2: The Human Struggle
- RELATED: Part 3: The Political Landscape
- RELATED: Part 4: Looking at Solutions
- CHAT: Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle talks about affordable housing
- CHAT: Al Zichella, president of the Collier Building Industry Association, talks about affordable housing
- REPORTER CHAT: Daily News reporters answered reader questions about affordable housing on April 25.
- RELATED: Letter to readers
- RELATED: Florida Legislature 2006: Affordable Housing
- EXPANDED COVERAGE: Read more stories from the series and get more coverage on affordable housing