WASHINGTON, D.C.–If you live on the coast or near a river, you’re probably biting your nails wondering just how high your flood insurance is going to get. With estimates for some areas as high a 3,000 percent, the Biggert-Waters Act could end up bankrupting some Mississippi landowners. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act could help change that.
Sen. Thad Cochran, a co-sponsor of the legislation, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday. He talked about a study that says there may be problems with the federal flood mapping techniques that determine the insurance rates under the National Flood Insurance Program.
“Before allowing unaffordable flood insurance rates to devalue private property and harm local communities and economies, we should be absolutely sure the government’s engineering practices and procedures are as sound as possible. It will be very difficult to rebuild communities or restore home equity once they are lost. So, we had better get it right,” said Cochran.
“Our bill does not create new programs to address rising premiums. It simply leaves in place some current practices so that we can make sure that the productive reforms we enacted last year will actually improve the credibility of the program among communities and homeowners. Our bill would not affect positive reforms related to expanding program participation, or the phase-out of subsidized flood insurance premiums for vacation homes and homes that have a history of repeated flooding,” he said.
The bill would require FEMA to certify that it has implemented a flood mapping approach that relies on sound scientific and engineering methodologies to determine varying levels of flood risk in all areas with NFIP participation. FEMA must also propose a draft affordability framework for congressional review. The bill sets a 24-month deadline for FEMA to take these actions and could delay rate hikes until affordability regulations authorized by Congress are finalized.
Sen. Roger Wicker joined Cochran in support of the bill.
“We need to address the very real problem of increases in flood insurance premiums, which will unfairly hurt homeowners and businesses in my home state of Mississippi and across the United States. The severe onset of unaffordable rates could have a devastating impact on the livelihood of homeowners and communities throughout the nation and on our economy,” he said.
“We cannot expect the NFIP to continue as a viable program without addressing the huge imbalance between premium revenue and payments for losses. But at the same time, Congress cannot sit by in the face of these dramatic unaffordable rate increases facing many Americans.
“The manner in which these reforms are being implemented is alienating the very people the program is intended to help. The new rates penalize people who have followed the rules and place the heaviest burden on those who are just now recovering from recent disasters.”
The bill would have to pass the Senate and the House and get the president’s signature to be effective.
Cochran said in his speech that the bill would not affect “the phase-out of subsidized flood insurance premiums for vacation homes and homes that have a history of repeated flooding”.