U.S. House flood insurance bill vote postponed until next week

February 26, 2014 

Homeowners nervous about rising flood insurance rates, especially in Florida, will have to wait a little longer for a possible solution.

The U.S. House was scheduled to vote on a bill could have delayed premium increases. Earlier Wednesday, lawmakers postponed the vote.

House Republicans said the vote would be put off until next week because they did not feel like they would get the two-thirds majority needed for the bill to pass.

The legislation could delay premium increases that are supposed to phase in next year and beyond under new and updated government flood maps.

It also would allow homeowners to pass below-cost policies on to people who buy their homes. People who have recently bought homes and face sharp, immediate jumps in their premiums would see those increases rolled back.

At issue is the government-run flood insurance program, in which taxpayers and other homeowners subsidize below-risk rates paid on older homes in both coastal areas threatened by hurricanes and big storms and inland areas near flood-prone rivers.

A sweeping overhaul that passed virtually unanimously in 2012 was designed to make the federal flood insurance program more financially stable and bring insurance rates more in line with the real risk of flooding.

But the two sides of Congress are looking at two different solutions.

The Senate bill, passed last month, would delay the increases for four years but some argue it would still leave homeowners holding the bag in a few years. And in the meantime, it does nothing to shore up the flood insurance program.

The House, meanwhile, is slated to vote on a measure that calls for more gradual premium increases to immediately start putting money back into the program. An annual surcharge would be tacked onto flood insurance premiums - $25 for primary homes and $250 for other properties.

This is all being monitored closely in Pinellas County, where there is the largest concentration of homeowner-affected rate hikes in the United States.

If neither the House, nor the Senate approve the bills, a conference committee is already planned to continue meeting on the issue.

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