CLEARWATER – The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy is meeting in open session Wednesday, Sept. 18, to conduct a hearing on implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012.
Pinellas County will be there – on paper anyway. County Administrator Bob LaSala passed out a statement to commissioners during the Sept. 17 meeting that he wants to send to Congressman Bill Young to include in Wednesday’s proceeding.
LaSala said the pending implementation of a second phase of Biggert-Waters 2012 was creating a “critical series of challenges for residents of Pinellas County.”
LaSala said he had been in touch with Young’s office about the hearing.
“He invited us to incorporate a statement,” he said.
Commissioner Susan Latvala approved of LaSala’s statement.
“But I think the second paragraph should be stronger,” she said.
The paragraph talks about the effect the law is having on the local real estate market.
“It (Biggert-Waters 2012) would devastate property values,” she said, adding that the numbers weren’t available to prove the point.
Commissioner Karen Seel said beach property values were just starting to recover after dropping about 50 percent during the recession.
The consensus of the commission was to make the language in the statement stronger and send it to Young.
Commissioner Janet Long suggested that a cover letter with all commissioners’ signatures be included to give the statement “added strength.”
LaSala agreed that a cover letter with signatures was a good idea.
“But there’s no time,” he said. “We have to do this by end of business today.”
There was only 40 minutes before 5 p.m.
“Real estate is already starting to suffer,” said Commissioner John Morroni. “Agents have lost sales.”
He said people were hesitant to buy when flood insurance rates were soaring, going up from $1,500 to $12,000 a year or more.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president in 2012. Unless the Senate and House of Representatives approve the bill to delay the implementation, it will go into effect Oct. 1.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website, www.fema.gov, BW-12, requires FEMA and other agencies to change how the National Flood Insurance Program is administered to make it more sustainable.
“Key provisions of the legislation will require the NFIP to raise rates to reflect the true flood risk, make the program more financially stable and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders,” the website says.
The changes are resulting in large insurance premium increases for many homeowners and businesses living in flood-prone areas, including waterfront and beachfront properties in Pinellas County.