Getting appropriate

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and five other members of the Florida congressional delegation from around the Suncoast have sent Speaker John Boehner a letter calling on Congress to pass legislation that would provide “immediate relief” for homeowners with National Flood Insurance Program coverage who are facing large-scale rate increases. The letter faults the Federal Emergency Management Agency for implementing the Briggert-Waters Act of 2012 “without consideration of affordability.”

Congress passed Briggert-Waters after belatedly recognizing that the artificially low rates charged for federal flood insurance have encouraged people to build houses in areas of high flood hazard. Recent severe storms have resulted in a $24 billion deficit for the flood insurance program. Raising federal flood insurance rates closer to a level reflecting the flood risk policyholders face was intended to help reduce the red ink.

The letter from the House members, however, says there is a “pending calamity” for the area’s housing-real estate recovery because of the “astronomical” flood insurance rate increases under Briggert-Waters and Congress must enact an “appropriate solution.”

We spent years warning about building in flood-prone areas fostered by flood insurance rates that don’t reflect the cost of potential flood damage claims. It has, however, taken decades to get into the current flood insurance mess, so it’s going to take years to get out of it.

Perhaps the appropriate solution would involve staggering the federal flood insurance rate increases, while making sure they’re big enough to foster a steady shift of some of the flood insurance burden back to the emerging private market.

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