Congress last year passed a bill to stop an $18 billion deficit in a federally-supported program. On Saturday, protest rallies against the new program have been organized across several states from New York to Louisiana. A rally isn't planned for Orange County, but if one was, local officials would all turn out. County Commissioners Court and city councils here are all passing resolutions calling for the repeal of the Biggert-Waters Act, also known as the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. West Orange City Council even called a special meeting just to vote against Biggert-Waters. The law is set to go into effect on Tuesday. The goal of the new bill is to have the federal flood insurance program be self-supportive. That means rates for places that have had flooding like Hurricane Ike will shoot higher than anyone could imagine. The law will also stop insurance for businesses and for second homes like beach cabins. The new FEMA flood maps released in January are part of the act and will be the basis for the new rates. 'I think it's going to hurt everyone,' Bridge City City Manager Jerry Jones said.
Lending institutions require home buyers to get flood insurance. The cost is added onto the monthly mortgage payment. Jones said the increase in payments could make the property values go down because of the costs of the insurance. For instance, a homeowner might have been paying $400 a year for flood insurance, which is $33.33 a month. If the rate goes up to $2,000 a year, the homeowner would pay $167 a month more. Jones said the insurance costs could make prospective buyers look for houses at other locations. Under the previous rules, about 65 to 70 percent of Bridge City was set out of the main flood zone designation. The new maps used information from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Now, 60 to 70 percent of Bridge City is in a high-risk area. Ike was 'something that never happened before and we feel it's unfair,' Jones said. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said the new rates will be phased in for current owners at 25 percent each year until a home reaches the full rate. The full rate will be charged for people buying a house after the act.
The National Flood Insurance Plan was started by the federal government in 1969 because private insurers did not provide that kind of coverage. FEMA oversees the program. TD Service Finance Corporation, a company that serves the mortgage industry, reports that the flood insurance program was self-supporting for more than 30 years. That means the premiums paid into the program covered the costs of the losses. Major hurricanes in the past few years have sent the insurance program into the red. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the insurance plan has been running deficits and has been about $18 billion in the hole, not including final figures from Hurricane Sandy last year that caused major damage across the New York and New Jersey coastlines.
A group called Stop FEMA Now started in those Northeast Atlantic states as homeowners learned how much they would have to pay for the insurance. Support has now spread across states on the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. The group is organizing the protests for Saturday with the states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The groupís website did not list any rallies in Texas. Uproar from cities and counties across the coasts has led to several members of Congress now ready to try to repeal the Biggert Waters Act.