The U.S. Senate today voted for a four-year delay to many of the premium hikes that has made the government’s flood insurance program unaffordable for thousands in Florida and across the country.
The bill passed by a margin of 67-32 after the Senate rejected a series of amendments that would have offered more modest financial relief to policyholders while sustaining the budget for the deeply indebted National Flood Insurance Program.
A group of Senate Republicans decried the legislation, which mainly stops rate increases for primary homes, predicting the House would not pass it.
The White House, too, has criticized the bill for the prospect of further destabilizing the flood program.
“We are finally coming to the point at which we can grant homeowners and businesses some relief from the huge, gargantuan – sometimes tenfold – increases in flood insurance premiums,” said Nelson, D-Orlando.
The bill mandates the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study and reassess flood maps that determine rates.
Opposition in the House led by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, could stymie the bill’s passage, or it could be changed significantly, though Florida Rep. Kathy Castor has said there are 180 representatives from both parties that have already announced their support for it.
The legislation will not solve all the problems Florida’s housing and tourism markets has faced since the premium increases that took effect last year as part of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act.
While it puts off hikes on primary residences, second homes and commercial properties will be subject to rate increases.
An estimated 50,000 homes in Hillsborough and Pinellas County could see rates go up as a result of the reforms to the flood program, which kicked in last year.
Those reforms remove so-called subsidies that have kept rates below their true risk on older homes that don’t meet modern flood building codes.
The flood program is $24 billion in debt and government analysts have raised concerns it may not be able to pay out future claims unless it collects more in premiums.