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By G. Steven Bray
Among the many items Congress must address when it returns from summer vacation is the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, which is set to expire on Sep 30.
Homeowners with a mortgage who live in a flood plain are required to carry flood insurance. The NFIP, created by Congress in 1968, provides this coverage for about 5 million policyholders.
Unfortunately, NFIP is in the hole to the US Treasury to the tune of $24.6 billion, and under the current terms of the program, it’s likely to remain insolvent as flood insurance premiums do not reflect the costs of the program.
In 2012, Congress reformed the program to address this problem by requiring NFIP to raise premiums to reflect true risk of loss. It grandfathered existing policies, but required risk-based pricing on change of ownership. That set off immediate wailing in flood-prone areas as full risk rates were 500 or more percent higher than the grandfathered rates. Congress quickly rolled back the requirement and with it the chance for NFIP to crawl out of its financial hole.
The House has passed legislation to reauthorize and reform the program, and industry groups say it’s on the right track as:
– It will continue to allow NFIP coverage of new homes in the 100-year flood plain;
– It will continue grandfathering of existing policies;
– And it will set the floor for premium rate increases to 6.5%.
Interestingly, the bill seems to reinstate the requirement that grandfathered rates end when a property changes hands. Reports are surfacing that this already is impacting real estate sales in coastal areas.