Heidi Zemach for SCN -
The U.S. Senate has approved a national flood insurance bill that would delay by at least three years steep increases in premiums underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program.
The scheduled increases, a result of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, were intended to offset the growing debt of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but lawmakers said they were premature, and came without a full understanding of the real financial impact on homeowners across the country.
“Besides pricing people out of their homes, these increases will suffocate real estate markets and hurt local economies across Alaska,” said U.S. Senator Mark Begich, in a recent press release. “That’s why I joined Senator Lisa Murkowski today to vote in support of the bipartisan Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.” Hundreds of Alaskans would be priced out of their homes because of a “misguided regulation,” he said.
The bill will delay premium increases for all currently “grandfathered” homes and businesses as well as properties that either purchased a new policy or were sold after July 6, 2012. Premium increases would be delayed until FEMA can complete a required study to assess the affordability of flood insurance and send a proposal to Congress. For many homeowners, this means rate hikes wouldn’t occur for up to three years, the press release stated.
The national program provides funding to homeowners across the country, including those who experienced flood damage as the result of disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy and flooding and extreme weather in Galena and areas on the Kenai Peninsula including the Seward and Moose Pass area.
Although the federal government has subsidized flood insurance policies in the past, the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012 put reforms in place that roll back the federal flood-policy underwriting subsidies, and will require property owners to be charged for flood policies matching their actual level of risk.
The Seward, Bear Creek flood board management area includes homes in areas that carry a variety of levels of flood-risk, and property insurance coverage is theoretically based on those risks. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new digital flood insurance rate maps for the Seward area (known as D-FIRMS) took effect September 27th, 2013. The maps are based on a snapshot of the area taken by FEMA in 2005, eight years ago. They don’t reflect significant areas of property developed since then, or natural changes in alluvial fan hydrology, but they are the maps that all individual flood insurance decisions will be based on, according to the flood board staff. The maps are more recent than the previous FIRM maps in use, which were created in 1981.