Governor Rick Scott blames President Obama for a flood insurance crisis now gripping the Tampa Bay area.
"President Obama signed a law that hurts Florida homeowners," Scott said, referring to a 2012 congressional renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program.
The Congress mandated risk-based flood insurance premiums after October 1, 2013. The impact of the mandated premiums range as high as $30,000 to $40,000 a year, which only became clear within the last few weeks.
"This is unfair and could devastate Tampa's real estate market," Scott told realtors at an appearance outside the offices of the Pinellas Realtor Organization. "Let's repeat. This is absolutely unfair and could devastate the real estate right here in Tampa."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster joined the governor at the podium, but did not correct the geographical faux pas. Foster did criticize Florida's Congressional delegation for not doing more to avert the crisis.
"I don't know what that answer is yet," Foster said. "But I know we can't depend upon those in Washington to help us with this problem that they created."
In reality, the flood insurance crisis is hitting Pinellas County harder than any other county in the nation, but the new premiums are also a big problem in Hillsborough and other Tampa Bay area counties.
St. Petersburg alone has more than 15,000 homes that are impacted, out of an estimated 33,000 countywide. Pinellas property appraiser Pam Dubov told the crowd "...22,000 of those aren't on the waterfront. They don't even have a water view. The typical size is about 1,400 square feet with two bathrooms. These aren't rich people on the beach."
The Bay area is particularly hard hit because it largely developed before there were flood maps and elevation requirements. Those structures were given favorable rates when the NFIP was first established.
Nonetheless, Florida is a "donor state," paying far more into NFIP than the total of its flood loss claims.
"If we wrote the flood insurance program exactly the way it's written federally, it would be a money-maker for the state of Florida," said Nancy Riley, a politically-connected real estate agent advancing the idea of a state-run program similar to Citizens Property Insurance.
Asked directly about that possibility in a brief [less than three minute] session with reporters, Governor Scott said "right now, this is a federal issue, it's been a federal program, I always look at ideas if people have ideas."
After the event, insurance agent Bob Childress found some value to the political display.
"I think it's important they get out, show their face and say look, we understand, we hear your cries," Childress said.
Real estate agent Charyl Jargel was less forgiving.
"Where were these people before today?" Jargel asked. "What did they do to prevent this from happening?"
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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