A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House and Senate recently would delay implementation of drastic flood insurance rate increases in Eastern North Carolina.
Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., representing District 3, which would feel some of the sharpest hikes, cosponsored the bill to prevent enactment of parts of last year’s Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act until a FEMA study on affordability and solutions is complete.
Major real estate groups, including the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors, applauded the bipartisan legislation at a press conference in Washington that Jones attended. It was hosted by companion bill’s sponsors Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
NAHB Chairman Rick Judson of Charlotte called the bill “a common-sense solution to fix some of the costly and unintended consequences resulting from the implementation” of reform enacted last year in reaction to high FEMA Flood Insurance payouts following hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
“While necessary, reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program should not be enacted in a way that causes homeowners in Eastern North Carolina and across the country to face sudden, exorbitant rate increases,” Jones said. “This delay in implementation will allow time for adjustments to be made to ensure that the program remains financially sustainable and that flood insurance rates remain affordable.”
But that is only if it passes, said Tom Thompson, president of NC-20, an advocacy group for North Carolina coastal counties affected by new rates.
“We’d love to see it passed but have to question whether it’s feasible,” Thompson said. “A lot of states aren’t impacted to the extent we are, so it gets to be a question of how far the bills will go. We hear there is a significant opposition.”
Thompson said he will be meeting with some of the legislators on Nov. 7 to present NC-20’s case to the N.C. Economic Development Commission. He said he’s hoping for state support.
“We need them, and the governor, to see this as an economic development issue,” Thompson said. Over the life of FEMA, North Carolina property owners have paid in $200 million more than they got back in claims. “We shouldn’t be penalized.”
Jones said that getting the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act passed would give some time to work out inequities since completing the mandated FEMA study and subsequent congressional review would delay the rate hikes by about four years.