Bilirakis bill calls for longer phase-in and caps on flood insurance rate hikes

Published Oct. 24, 2013

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis has introduced legislation to phase in flood insurance rate increases over a longer period and set a cap on annual premium increases.

Bilirakis, a Republican representing Pasco and parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, was among many original supporters of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, a law that was widely portrayed as a saving the National Flood Insurance Program after it ran out of funds paying Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy claims.

Like most Florida legislators, Bilirakis changed his mind after seeing how the law has triggered large rate increases in Tampa Bay in particular.

His bill would phase in rate increases over 10 years and allow homeowners to pay premiums on a monthly basis instead of an annual lump sum.

He also proposes capping premiums at no more than the appraised value of the structure projected over 30 years. That would mean, for instance, that the owner of a home appraised at $200,000 would pay no more than $6,666 in premiums by the end of the 10-year phase-in. Locally, there have been many anecdotes of homeowner flood rates rising from a few thousand dollars to between $10,000 and $20,000 once those properties lose their longtime subsidized rates.

There are ongoing efforts in both the House and Senate to at least forestall some provisions of Biggert-Waters for a year or until FEMA studies affordability issues.