Flood insurance costs beginning to hit home - FOX 13 News

Flood insurance costs beginning to hit home

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ST. PETE BEACH (FOX 13) -

At the request of local lawmakers, Citizen Property Insurance agents came to St. Pete Beach to answer questions about wind and property coverage.

That was not the top priority on the minds of barrier island residents.

"Unfortunately, today, we've heard probably nine out of 10 people walking in the door that they're going to have to sell their home and find another place to live inland because they wouldn't be able to afford the flood insurance hike" said Robin Grabowski, the chamber's president.

Carmen Miller and her husband Gary bought their non-waterfront home in St. Pete Beach nine years ago. Their private flood insurance was cancelled.

"So FEMA sends us an estimate of $10,000 a year. We were in shock," Miller told FOX 13 News. "We are forced to put the house for sale and move right now if something doesn't change."

Gregory Wilson was satisfied with the service he received from the Citizens representatives, but said he is very aware of the separate flood insurance challenge.

"I don't look forward to living in the equivalent of Love Canal where your home's toxic and nobody will buy it," Wilson said, adding his mortgage -- and therefore the requirement to carry flood insurance -- will be paid off in a few months. Not insuring would then be an option, at the owner's risk.

"If a catastrophe happens I'm fairly confident I'll be a resident somewhere else," Wilson predicted.

In July of 2012, Congress renewed the National Flood Insurance Program for another five years, and mandated premiums reflect risk. That exposed more than one million properties nationwide to extreme rate hikes.

Proponents argue those customers have enjoyed subsidized flood insurance rates for decades, costing the NFIP tens of billions of dollars.

Beach hotelier and homeowner Gregg Nicklaus understands the business argument, but questions whether the Congress understood the consequences.

"It could put our real estate market into a collapse, again putting serious burden on local governments," Nicklaus said.

"The magnitude of the situation is a recent realization for businesses and residents out here," Grabowski explained. "Many of them are receiving actual notices in the mail, learning how much their flood insurance is going to go up."

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