Slow unwind

We weren’t surprised by the report last week that there is likely to be no immediate relief for people who have had their Federal Flood Insurance Program rates go through the roof. Given the massive mess the flood insurance program has become, it won’t be anytime soon that this Gordian Knot gets untied.
Although President Barack Obama has signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which Congress passed in response to a tidal wave of protest over sharply higher federal flood insurance rates, it could take as much as a year for the rate reductions to kick in, according to a St. Petersburg Tribune report. The big rate increases were a result of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, which Congress enacted to reduce the flood insurance program’s $24 billion deficit. A major reason for all the red ink is the flood insurance program’s rates were too, low given the risk involved. This encouraged people to build or buy houses in areas vulnerable to storm-related flooding — and produce big damage claims.
In the end, the way out of the federal flood insurance problem is making it possible for property owners to take advantage of the newly emerging private flood insurance market. Keeping the federal programs artificially low won’t help that. What’s more, a bill introduced last week by U.S. Rep. David Jolly would extend the rate break the owners of primary residences just received to secondary residences and commercial property.
At some point, a gradual raising of rates for existing federal flood insurance policyholders, however painful, likely will be needed to get the ball rolling.
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