Oh, good: Congress moving on a reprieve for already-subsidized federal flood insurance

posted at 5:21 pm on July 17, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Just what the national debt needs: Another “temporary” reprieve on an expensive federal program that actively promotes adverse incentives and undercuts a service available in the free market, all at the expense of the faceless taxpayer. Perfect.

The AP reports that hundreds of thousands of homeowners were, until yesterday, looking at higher premiums on their federally subsidized flood insurance after Congress passed (the minimum of) much-needed reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program. On Tuesday, however, the possibility of a one-year reprieve on the higher premiums started to make its way through the Senate:

The temporary relief would go to homeowners in low-lying areas of Louisiana, Florida and other states where new government surveys could produce flood insurance premium in­creases so big that the homeowners might be no longer able to afford their homes.

At issue are homeowners whose flood insurance bills have historically been “grandfathered” at lower rates since they followed the rules in place at the time they bought or built their home. Under last year’s bipartisan overhaul, many of these homeowners face higher premiums when new flood maps are issued.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure as part of a $39 billion spending bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. The legislation has already passed the House as part of its version of the spending bill.

The overhaul of the flood insurance program passed last year with sweeping bipartisan support. The program has required more than $24 billion in bailouts since being established in 1968, with billions of dollars in additional costs from Hurricane Sandy still being tallied. Most of the losses came because of subsidized insurance rates and losses from repeat claims on homes and businesses flooded every few years.

Why is it that whenever Congress seems to finally summon the gumption to allow the tiniest bit of government spending to fall away, it seems like they almost immediately move to temper it? Starting this October, insurance rates on homes and businesses in flood zones that have been repeatedly and severely flooded are going to start going up by 25 percent a year until they reflected the “true risk” of the area, while subsidized rates would begin to lapse when homes were sold or flooded repeatedly. The reforms were passed on a bipartisan basis, and reflected the simple reality that, if you cannot afford the risk of rebuilding or repairing your home that comes with living in a flood zone, maybe… don’t live in a flood zone. The costs of maintaining waterfront property aren’t always cheap, for more than one reason — and they shouldn’t be made cheap by the largesse of the federal government.

Older homes under older codes were also supposed to start seeing rate increases starting late next year, but now Congress might be putting a delay on that category — and perhaps another one-year delay isn’t a big deal, except what’s to stop them from doing the exact same thing next year? This hardly qualifies as a service that necessitates the involvement of the federal government, and it is one that we can ill afford.


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