There are many manifestations of the flood insurance crisis, among them, a Congressional time trap. St. Pete Beach homeowner Penny Lee got caught in that.
"I bought this house, I closed in October" Lee said Sunday, "No one mentioned anything about flood insurance increasing."
Hailing from Georgia, flood insurance was a new expense. It cost her $1,339 at closing.
However, three months earlier, Congress renewed the National Flood Insurance Program with the proviso that by October 1, 2013 premiums reflect risk.
Lee just received her flood insurance renewal. "It's $8,859 renewed October 1st. This is real. It's a bill. It's not an option- I gotta pay it, one way or another" Lee said, "How do you come up with that kind of money when you're trying to make ends meet as it is?"
Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce president Robin Sollie confirmed "These people that bought homes after July of 2012 had no idea that this was coming."
Their plight is just one aspect of the flood insurance crisis. Rates will jump as dramatically October 1st for second homeowners, commercial properties and new policies purchased by home buyers.
"The most unfair aspect is that 99.9% of the people never knew that it was coming. It's like that storm that was out there and all of a sudden it turns into a hurricane and we run and scramble- that's unfair," Sollie said.
The Chamber has organized an informational meeting for September 25th.
Later this week Sollie hopes to travel to Washington to lobby Congressional members.
"Not only with our local delegation, but the delegations that represent the non-coastal communities, because they don't understand the ramification of what they're going to institute on these coastal communities" Sollie explained.
Most of Florida's representatives voted in July 2012 in favor of the NFIP renewal, but the ramifications were not quantified with actuarial rates until 2013.
Florida's rates were not known until mid-August. Now the flood insurance crisis is sweeping over neighborhood's like Lee's on St. Pete Beach.
North Beach Civic Association president Paul Pfister told FOX 13 News "We're all ground level, so we're all in the same boat." Pfister said some residents are in shock, others are in denial.
"There are some that figure it's just going to go away, you know wait, it's not going to happen" Pfister said, "It's done, it's a done deal."
He said only a handful of homes have been elevated above the 100-year flood plane.
Their flood insurance rates may actually go down. But last month FOX 13 News estimated 2,300 homes in St. Pete Beach alone may be hit with much higher rates.
"What happens if you can't pay this flood insurance?" Pfister queried, "People can't then pay the mortgage, then we're back into all the foreclosures again."
"This is not something that's affecting the rich" Lee added, "It's affecting all of us- everyone."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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