Fight to stop flood insurance rate increases continues

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POSTED: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 8:55pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 9:40pm

Members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation are fighting to prevent major flood insurance premium hikes from taking affect. They sent a letter asking their colleagues to support legislation that would push pause on the rate increases for one year.

"[The goal] was to delay the rate increases for a year to allow FEMA to get their act together, so that flood insurance rates actually reflect risks," Rep. Bill Cassidy, (R) Louisiana, stated Tuesday.

Last summer Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which changed the formula of how insurance rates are set. Cassidy explained part of the issue is new FEMA Flood maps. The new maps could change up who is required to have flood insurance. It also effects insurance rates.

Cassidy said the delegation has a big problem with the way the maps are designed. They say some area's included in the map have never flooded. Other area's don't get credit for having local levees.

"In some cases FEMA hasn't taken in to account [local] flood protection structures that we know work that are protecting homes from being flooded. Their rates are set as if those flood protection structures are not in place," Cassidy said.

St. James Parish is one of the areas in South Louisiana that could see these major rate jumps over the next few years.

People living in St. James are outraged.

St. James home owner, Kenneth Trousclair, never thought he'd have to buy flood insurance.

"They told me when I bought this house I didn't need flood insurance," Trousclair said.

After Hurricane Isaac sent floodwater into his neighborhood he bought a new policy. Now he's worried his rates could go up.

"I really don't understand, because at one time you could get flood insurance really cheap and now it could cost you as much as a house or more than a house. "

Trousclair is not alone.

"We never flooded. We never heard of flood insurance here. It's like something new to us to get flood insurance," Troas Pouche, Paulina homeowner, described. "With the prices we're hearing we're like mad and angry about it."

The Louisiana Congressional Delegation is working on long term legislation to fix issues with the Biggert-Waters act.

St. James Parish officials are also teaming up with other area parish leaders  to explain the situation to FEMA leaders.

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said if nothing changes people who previously were "grandfathered" into lower rates could have to shell out more money for insurance in the future.

"They followed all those rules all the rules of code and building practices, and then 10 years down the line, FEMA comes back and changes the rules changes the base flood elevation. Guess what they're not grandfathered then they're insurance premiums can spike," Roussel explained.

Jody Chenier, Director of operations for St. James Parish explained some groups will see the rate changes sooner than others.

"When people come to build a new house they would automatically see the change. If you refinance your house you will automatically see the change. Those people who live in a house that is already paid for and don't have a federally backed loan they won't see the change until they come to sell that house and all of a sudden the new rules take affect," Chenier said.

Now homeowners like Poche are left waiting to see when their bill could jump.

"I lose my house. I can't afford it. I have to pay a house note and I got to pay $20,000 in flood insurance that is something you might not even use this year. I'm afraid I'll lose my house," Poche said.

To learn more about rate changes click here.

Attached is a copy of the letter sent to Congressional leaders from the Louisiana Delegation.

2013_09_09_NFIP_letter.pdf540.21 KB

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