Homeowners throughout the Bay Area are facing massive increases to their flood insurance premiums starting Tuesday, and officials worry there isn't much lawmakers can do in the short-term to prevent the higher rates from going into effect.
Congress passed a bill last year paving the way for the rate hikes when lawmakers decided to stop funding the flood insurance program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State and local leaders have been pushing for Congress to overturn or delay the law.
"Right now, I don't think there's any way for us to stop it from kicking in," said Bob Henriquez, Hillsborough County's Property Appraiser, who added he is concerned there will be an immediate impact. "In the short-term, it's what effect this may have in terms of chilling the real estate market."
Henriquez said he and other officials in similar positions will also have to keep an eye on whether the expensive flood insurance costs will drive down home values.
Thousands of homeowners in the Bay Area, many in Pinellas County, are looking at having to pay thousands of dollars for their premiums and some of them are already thinking about moving out of their houses.
"This is where we raised our children and my husband lived here so it's devastating," said Penny Hawthorne, who lives in the Shore Acres community, which constantly floods during storms. "In three years what I would be paying for flood insurance is almost as much as we paid for the whole house."
Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has repeatedly called for Congress to take immediate action; he'll be in Clearwater Tuesday doing just that.
Should lawmakers eventually repeal or delay the bill, it could create a new set of issues: some homeowners will already be paying the new, higher premiums and will likely expect a credit or refund.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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