The next big challenge to the Tampa Bay economy may be the cost of flood insurance.
FEMA, which runs the National Flood Insurance Program [NFIP], has not yet released new rates for Florida.
But in Louisiana some property owners will see 100 to 1,000% increases.
On Wednesday, FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, told the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans, "We're going to see rather substantial increases in the cost to purchase flood insurance" because of a Congressional mandate to make NFIP self-sustaining.
"Where previously we may have been able to provide some grandfathering or some mitigation of the impacts there's no longer going to be a buffer," said Fugate.
As of the end of January 2013, there were 353,200 flood insurance policies in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
In Pinellas county alone property owners already pay more than $100 million a year for flood insurance.
Dr. Maling Ebrahimpour, dean of the College of Business at USF St. Petersburg, said just doubling that amount would impact the local economy.
"That money is not going to be in the economy now," he explained.
"And that's really something that's really going to hurt," said Ebrahimpour.
Dr. Ebrahimpour also told FOX 13 News, "I think it's very important for our local government to pay attention- not just the homeowner."
His primary concern is for long-time or retired coastal residents.
"I'm talking about the homeowner who lived there for years...they may be displaced because they cannot afford- so what are you going to do with them?" he said.
Ken Welch, chairman of the Pinellas County Commission, said the cost of flood insurance was not yet on his radar, but the issue coincides with another concern.
The commission has a workshop scheduled to discuss the impacts rising sea levels will have on the Pinellas shoreline.
Welch said the potential impacts of raising flood insurance costs will be added to that discussion.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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