Their homes may differ in dimensions, but one thing was universal at a Wednesday evening forum on the looming flood insurance hike: homeowners' concerns.
Rates are expected to skyrocket for thousands across Florida in just a few days, after Congress passed a measure last year that will essentially end federal flood insurance subsidies in flood zones.
Larry Belanger is one of those homeowners bracing for a hit.
"The insurance agents who gave me the fee said, 'Are you sitting down?' They had never seen anything like this. He was absolutely shocked," Belanger said Wednesday.
His St. Petersburg home is up for sale. But it's not the asking price that's sending buyers running. It's the new flood insurance rate.
"The flood rate from the insurance company is coming in at $45,663 a year. Obviously, nobody's buying that house," he said.
Homes that are without a standing flood insurance policy or were bought after July 2012 will likely be the hardest hit by the hike.
"Sometimes those rates can go up to the 20's and 30's, and I heard the other night at a similar forum in Indian Rocks Beach that an insurance agent who was present had actually priced someone's insurance out to $71,000 a year," Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov said.
Insurance experts say the law was passed as a knee-jerk reaction to help balance FEMA's flood insurance program, after an onslaught of claims from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
"We are talking to Congress about the unintended consequences, is this what they really meant?" Wright Flood's Patricia Templeton-Jones said during Wednesday's meeting.
It's a question thousands want answered, as their homes hang on the line.
"We hear these people are on the beaches, they're wealthy, so they can afford it. Most of these houses are not on the water, they're not on the beaches. They're $100,000, $200,000 houses. Your insurance goes up, they can't afford it," Belanger said.
Insurance providers at the forum urged homeowners to call their congressmen and ask for them to stall this measure and re-examine its effect on homeowners and the real estate market.
They also stressed the importance of making sure flood insurance policies do not lapse. They say if they do lapse, premiums will be based on actuarial rates, instead of a gradual annual increase.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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