A better approach

Carteret County News-Times
Editorial

We applaud Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and other lawmakers who last week lent their support to bipartisan measures in both the House and Senate that would delay implementation of large flood insurance rate hikes – increases that were expected to have a significant impact on property owners here.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act would delay changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, stalling implementation of rate increases previously required by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 until two years after the Federal Emergency Management Agency completes an affordability study. That study was originally mandated under the law but never undertaken.

The study would then be subject to congressional review, putting the total time of delay around four years.

 

Biggert-Waters mandates changes that include raising NFIP rates to reflect “true flood risk,” according to FEMA documents, and make the program more financially stable. The law eliminates “artificially” low rates and discounts, which Congress said are no longer sustainable.

“While necessary, reforms to the NFIP should not be enacted in a way that causes homeowners in Eastern North Carolina and across the country to face sudden, exorbitant rate increases,” said Rep. Jones. “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.”

As reported Wednesday, the bill was praised by officials here, including the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. The business organization has expressed concerns that the increases will be unaffordable and hurt property values and coastal economies.

In North Carolina, the rate increases were expected to impact nearly 140,000 NFIP policyholders statewide, according to the Association of State Floodplain Managers. More than 17,000 of those are impacted by immediate phase-outs of NFIP subsidies.

The bill introduced last week would freeze all rate hikes for one year and slow the growth of rate increases to flood insurance policies over the next 10 years. It would also offer tax credits to homeowners and small businesses and grant funding to NFIP policyholders who take steps to minimize their flood risk.

The measure appears to be a more reasoned, less Draconian approach to NFIP reform than Biggert-Waters. A fix is needed, but not one that leaves us broke.

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