Elderly couple stuck in home, thanks to flood insurance fiasco - FOX 13 News

Elderly couple stuck in home, thanks to flood insurance fiasco

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The flood insurance fiasco concocted by Congress has now trapped an elderly Pinellas couple in the house they built in 1957.

"When we built, we didn't have to have [flood insurance] back then," Joe Griffith pointed out Tuesday, in the living room of his 1,500 square foot, non-waterfront home.

Assuming any potential buyer would need a mortgage, flood insurance would be required -- and expensive.

"Between $5,000 and $8,000 a year, and this is just preposterous for anybody that wants to buy this house," Griffith said.

He and his wife, Gloria, are both 89 years old, and have been looking at assisted living facilities the past year. The homestead is their last source of the necessary cash.

"We don't have a lot of money, and we're about to run out now from our savings," Griffith said.

He said his home sits at about 7.5 feet above sea level, or roughly four feet below the 100-year flood plain. Insurance broker Jake Holehouse confirmed Griffith's estimates of flood coverage prices, and his predicament.

"You'll be lucky to get a rate between 6 and $8,000 for building-only coverage," Holehouse told FOX 13 news. "There are still a lot of homeowners that are drastically affected in Pinellas County."

Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov has estimated there are more than 20,000 houses in the county similar to the Griffith's -- built in flood zones before the first flood maps existed, modest in size, and not on the water.

Those represent two-thirds of the Pinellas residential structures impacted by National Flood Insurance Program reforms Congress mandated in 2012.

Risk-based rates were required, starting October 1, 2013. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers recently proposed delaying the reforms, but the corrective legislation has stalled.

"The biggest thing that we're facing is there's just such a loss of momentum of, let's get this thing going," Holehouse said.

Griffith said he and his wife still love their place, but it is time to move on.

"I have just been forbidden to climb stepladders anymore," the homeowner admitted, citing a fall from a ladder while pruning bushes. "I've got a self-propelled lawnmower, but I can't even chase that very much."

Gloria's eyesight is failing, and she recently recovered from a broken leg. Assisted living appeals to both of them, but the house that was their home for 55 years is now a problem.

"I wish we could sell it," Griffith said. "And the thing that's stopping it right now more than anything else is this new flood insurance law."

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