Bill to Delay Flood Insurance Premium Hikes
Waters was a chief architect of the bipartisan Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act that ordered an end to many premium subsidies for property owners and a remapping of communities along with other changes that are resulting in many homeowners facing big premium hikes and more property owners being told they must buy flood coverage. In some areas, the premiums hikes are beginning to affect home sales.
The Biggert-Waters law was intended to help reduce the debt of the NFIP, a debt now estimated at more than $25 billion, by bringing rates charged more in line with the risk and losses in flood-prone areas.
The new legislation calls for a four-year delay in most rate increases and requires FEMA, which administers the flood program, to complete an affordability study and propose regulations that address affordability issues.
The bipartisan deal comes after several weeks of negotiations with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate. Waters said that on Oct. 9, in the midst of the government shutdown, she convened a bipartisan meeting of nearly 20 House members, as well as Senate staff, to build consensus around an agreement to delay and fix the program.
“Over the past several months, I have felt the harm and heartache that many Americans have already experienced as a result of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. From the start, I have made clear that I would lead the effort to fix the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act,” said Waters in a statement released by her office announcing the deal.
She said the legislation will be released this week in the House and Senate. It will impose a delay likely to total four years for the most vulnerable properties, by delaying implementation of rate increases until two years after FEMA completes an affordability study, which was mandated in Biggert-Waters but not undertaken.
In addition, the legislation requires FEMA to propose regulations that address the affordability issues within 18 months after the completion of the study and establishes a six month moratorium thereafter to provide for Congressional review.
The proposed delay applies to: primary, non-repetitive loss residences that are currently grandfathered; all properties sold after July 6, 2012; and all properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012.
FEMA has estimated it will take two years to complete the affordability study before regulations can be issued and reviewed by Congress, meaning rate increases would be delayed for approximately four years in total, according to Waters.
In addition, Waters said the legislation:
Lawmakers from both parties have been clamoring for a delay in the Biggert-Waters reforms.
Business, taxpayer and insurance interests immediately criticized delaying Biggert-Waters as “unfortunate”and “preposterous.”
FEMA Director Craig Fugate, under pressure from lawmakers to delay the premium increases, told Congress last month that legislation is necessary because he does not believe he has the authority under the Biggert-Water Act to stop the changes administratively. He also said there was not enough time or money to complete an affordability study before the changes went into effect.