February 20

GOP drafting bill to ease flood insurance hikes

Projections of premium increases in the current law have panicked coastal residents.

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Projections of what the new rates will be have caused panic among hundreds of thousands living in low-lying coastal areas and near the banks of rivers and their tributaries subject to flooding.

The Senate last month passed with bipartisan support legislation that would put much of the 2012 law on hold for four years. And last month’s government-wide spending bill contained a provision to put off higher premiums required by new flood maps, delaying for at least a year higher premiums on hundreds of thousands of homeowners who pay grandfathered, below-market rates for insurance because their homes were in compliance with earlier flood codes.

The changes proposed by the House dismayed supporters of the 2012 law, who said it began to remove incentives for people to live in costly, flood-prone areas.

“We are concerned that the end product would thoroughly undercut the reforms that more than 400 House members voted for in Biggert-Waters,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. “It would artificially-reduce premiums for a huge number of policyholders and actually create a sort of bifurcated system where some people are living under one set of rules and other people are living under another set of rules.”

Among the arguments for preserving the reforms is the role of climate change. Many experts say global warming increases the threat of huge storms like Sandy.

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