Pinellas News

U.S. House holding flood insurance rate hearings

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are holding a hearing this afternoon on major premium hikes for many homeowners covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Housing and Insurance Subcommittee hearing comes as Congress considers legislation that would freeze rate increases until Federal Emergency Management Agency officials complete an affordability study.

FEMA director Craig Fugate and experts in real estate, home-building and flood plain management are among those scheduled to appear at the 1:30 p.m. hearing in Washington.

The reforms enacted by the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act have begun to raise rates on older homes in flood zones that have been grandfathered in at low rates, even as more accurate risk data has become available.

The federal flood program is more than $20 billion in debt following major catastrophes such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Thousands of homes in Florida face serious premium hikes under the new law, exceeding $20,000 a year in the worst cases. Pinellas has 33,000 single-family homes likely to be effected — more than any other county in the United States. Many Hillsborough County property owners are also facing steep increases in their flood insurance premiums.

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