Lawmakers introduce legislation to delay flood insurance hikes - FOX 13 News

Lawmakers introduce legislation to delay flood insurance hikes

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Monday's good news spread fast throughout the Tampa Bay area.

"We got a massive quantity of email yesterday when somebody had announced that there had been a delay," Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce president Robin Sollie confirmed Tuesday. "We immediately notified our members that there is a proposed delay" (in soaring flood insurance rates.)

Tuesday delivered on Monday's promise: Identical relief legislation introduced in both houses and Congress with bipartisan co-sponsorship.

Proposed, new risk-rated premiums mandated by Congress in 2012 would be put on hold for up to four years for many properties.

The intention in 2012 was to make the National Flood Insurance Program pay for itself. The unintentional consequences in 2013 are devastating.

"(Our flood premium) would go from $800 a year to $8,500 a year -- that's a lot of money," said David Lockhart, who owns two houses and a real estate agency in St. Pete Beach.

His spouse and business partner addressed the real estate impacts.

"We were seeing price increases, every home was selling for a little bit more than the last, everything was moving, people could finally get out of their homes," Wendy Lockhart recalled. "And then when the flood insurance hit here on the beaches, it just pretty much came to a standstill."

The new rates hit tens of thousands of homes in the Bay area, because this area largely developed before flood insurance rate maps came into existence in the mid-1970's.

For decades, those structures paid artificially low premiums that did not reflect the true risk of flooding.

When Congress mandated a new business strategy, there were no proposed rates to consider. Those real world figures were not published for the Southeastern United States until this past August.

The new rates were retroactive to policies written after the Congressional action in July 2012.

Penny Lee closed on her home October 1, 2012, and saw her rates soar October 1, 2013.

"I'm paying more in flood insurance alone than I (pay) for my mortgage," Lee said Tuesday.

Her take on possible Congressional relief now?

"I don't know what's going to happen now," Lee said. "It's going to be escrowed in my mortgage, and I don't know. I hope that I'll get a credit -- one can only hope."

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