2013-09-27 / Editorial/Opinion

An Urgent Matter

The people who drove us into the Biggert-Waters ditch are the only ones who can drive us out. We need our legislators to get to work.

Biggert-Waters is the law that will crush communities across the country unless immediate action is taken. Unless legislative action is taken, a real estate bust will occur like no other. The ramifications will be felt by everyone.

The real estate industry is waking up to the horrors but the insurance industry is quite happy with Biggert-Waters. They love it, in fact. The insurance industry faces no risk by selling flood insurance. When FEMA hikes premiums, insurance agents and companies get bigger commissions.

We agree with someone who said, the government (that’s us taxpayers) can bail out the big insurance company AIG but when it’s time for bigger commissions, public be damned.

There are so many things wrong with the new law. If you are a reckless driver and are always getting in accidents, you will pay a higher and higher premium. Makes sense.

With flood insurance, you can make an infinite number of claims and you’ll still pay the same premium as someone in the same flood plain who has never made a claim. If your house floods multiple times, you should pay more for flood insurance. But that’s not the way the law works. Congress should fix that now.

The deductible on flood insurance is another matter. The highest deductible allowed is $1000. Many homeowners would rather have a higher deductible so they could lower their premium. Many homeowners want catastrophic protection but don’t necessarily care about insuring the hot water heater. Deductibles of up to $20,000 should be allowed. Congress should fix that now.

The banks are the ones who will be enforcing payment of absurd premiums. In order for their loans to be federally guaranteed banks must insist homeowners carry flood insurance. Why not consider allowing banks to charge 1 percent interest over their normal lending rates for properties in flood zones? The extra point could help fund the National Flood Insurance Program and cost homeowners a little bit more to live in a flood zone, which is reasonable.

Allow flood proofing of homes. Right now, the only way homeowners can lower flood insurance premiums is to elevate their houses. A wall around your house and flood proof windows and doors don’t mean a thing to FEMA. You can get an automobile discount for a safe driving course. But you get nothing if you flood proof your house. Congress should fix that now.

A word to those without a mortgage who aren’t required to carry flood insurance. If you received FEMA money because of damage done by Sandy, you will not be eligible for FEMA money again should there be another flood. You must carry flood insurance or risk complete exposure. People shouldn’t go broke insuring their biggest asset. Seniors, in particular, who own their homes outright shouldn’t be forced to choose between no insurance and unaffordable premiums. Congress should fix that now.

And a word to non-homeowners and those who live outside flood zones. If devastating flood insurance premiums are allowed, the value of real estate in flood plains will plummet. The assessed values go down as well and the city collects less in tax dollars. Businesses in flood plains will suffer greatly and have less sales tax to hand over. With less money in the coffers, the City will have to find money elsewhere.

If coastal areas sneeze, everyone else is going to catch a cold. Everyone will be paying. Congress and city officials should realize this now.

What can you do? Don’t be reactive and wait until the bad stuff happens. Be proactive on this. Go to the rally in Broad Channel on Saturday. Make a call to your representatives and simply ask the person who answers the phone, “Is (rep’s name) doing anything about flood insurance?”

FEMA says they need congressional help to fix the law. Our reps should help them fix it now.

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