JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Palm Beach Post) -- Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday filed an amendment to delay pending flood insurance increases as the brunt of the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act prepares to hit Florida on Oct. 1.
The amendment would hold back funding to implement the reforms that are expected to impact 268,646 Florida property owners, or about 13 percent of all policyholders and by far the most of any state.
Nelson voted in favor of the act, which was aimed at reducing a multi-billion dollar deficit in the National Flood Insurance fund following hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
But lawmakers acknowledged last week during a congressional hearing that the bill has its flaws, namely jacking up rates on some previously subsidized policies to unaffordable levels.
“This was built backward and upside down, authorizing immediate rate increases before they even began to study the impacts these rate increases will have on affordability,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., during a hearing Wednesday in front of a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee. “It was premature, it was not well thought out, it must be fixed. I know we had good intentions, but we made a mistake.”
An affordability study called for in the bill was never conducted.
Owners of second homes who received subsidies started paying higher rates Jan. 1. Beginning Oct. 1, businesses that were subsidized will see 25 percent annual rate increases until they reach their full rate price.
Also beginning Oct. 1, homebuyers purchasing a previously subsidized home will pay the full rate.
In Palm Beach County, just 3 percent of policies, or 4,834 properties, will see rate increases from the act as they lose subsidies from the National Flood Insurance Program.
But other areas, particularly in Miami-Dade County and Florida’s west coast communities, will be more severely affected.
Thirty-five percent of Pinellas County policies will experience rate hikes that can reach into the thousands of dollars. On popular Sanibel Island, 58 percent of policies will lose subsidies that can make or break real estate deals.
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott also asked for changes to the massive legislation that would ease the burden on Florida homeowners.
In a letter from Nelson on Tuesday, he says he has been working to make the reforms.
“In fact, we have legislation aimed specifically at delaying the rate hikes,” Nelson said. “But the current state of gridlock in Congress, caused by a small minority, has prevented us from getting much of anything passed.”