Congress failing Florida on flood insurance mitigation

November 23, 2013 

The prospects of Florida property owners with flood insurance getting a slight reprieve on astronomical rate hikes appears very dim now. Congress doesn't care.

Houses and businesses in flood zones -- newly designed thanks to technological advances -- will see the biggest premium increases. Yet now both Republicans and Democrats are disavowing the legislation with Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan leading the charge to disarm the law.

At a meeting of the Florida House delegation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Buchanan remarked: "It's out of control and you're going to put a lot of people out of their houses."

While we agree with the law's intent -- having property owners pay the actuarially sound rate -- abruptly ending government subsidies will have a profoundly negative impact on the real estate market. As Buchanan states, the new premiums could send some homeowners into a fire sale to avoid bills they cannot afford. Plus, owners hoping to sell could be stuck with a house unattractive to potential buyers looking at insurance as a consideration.

Nobody anticipated premiums would increase so suddenly, so the shock will be hard-hitting.

What are the odds that the law will be modified to reduce the sharp premium increase this year? Long ones with only days left in the congressional schedule. Premium increases should be either delayed or incrementally applied so as not to sink the real estate market.

Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor is working with Republican Buchanan on a remedy and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is pushing relief in the Senate. We hope for a vote on this before Congress adjourns for the year.

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