With flood rate hike looming, options are few - FOX 13 News

With flood rate hike looming, options are few

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ST. PETE BEACH (FOX 13) -

Rising flood insurance rates in Pinellas County have homeowners looking for a way out, which may involve some stilts.

The insurance rate hike takes effect October 1st. Now, several contractors and city building officials tell FOX 13 they are getting multiple inquiries about elevating homes.

"Right now, our flood insurance is about $1,700 a year," said St. Pete Beach homeowner Carol Giovannoni. "With these changes to the flood insurance, it's going to increase to anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 a year, just for flood."

She and Chris Grause moved into their 1950s vintage slab-on-grade home in 2001. They have made numerous improvements, including one within the last few months.

"We didn't want to go into debt so we saved for ten years and put the pool in. That's $60,000 that we could have spent somewhere else," Grause said.

Both are real estate agents now familiar with the improbability of selling their home. All options are now being considered.

"One option is to actually raise the house out of the base flood elevation," Grause said.

That would cost between $100,000 and $200,000, depending on how high the house was elevated.

"The other option we're looking at is to tear it down and build new," Giovannoni said.

They told FOX 13 a third option they're considering is to pay off the house in five years, and then not have flood insurance.

Lenders require flood insurance. With no loan, there's no requirement, but there's also no protection. 

Some people are taking that risk.

"We're finding a lot of our neighbors are going to do just that, paying off their house and not carrying flood insurance," Giovannoni said. 

But not everybody can afford to do that. There are an estimated 2,300 homes just in St. Pete Beach ensnared by the flood insurance crisis, and as many as 50,000 throughout Pinellas County.

Treasure Island recently hosted a public information session that attracted more than 400 property owners.

The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce has now scheduled another one for September 25th.

It will start at 6 p.m. on the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College at 9200 113th Street North.

Representatives of the insurance industry will explain the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, while other speakers will address concerns about real estate values and taxation issues.

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