Thousands attend flood insurance meeting in Seminole

By Laurie Davison, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More than a thousand people attended a Flood Insurance Seminar in Seminole Wednesday night to talk about rate hikes expected to go into effect October 1st.

Larry Belanger said if he sells one of his homes in Pinellas County, it could cost the new homeowner more than $45,000 to buy flood insurance.

"This is going to affect a lot of people in small homes, not on the beaches, and they are going to suffer because they are going to lose their homes or they won't be able to sell their homes which is just as bad," said Belanger.

It's the result of flood insurance reform that Congress passed in 2012.

The goal is to reduce the National Flood Insurance Program's multi-billion dollar debt.

Essentially what it does is remove federal subsidies from some homes and businesses in flood zones but real estate agents said it's having a "trickle down" effect.

They said buyers are getting skittish because they are afraid they won't be able to pay the full flood insurance rates.

"I just got a phone call from a buyer who purchased a property in Feather Sound four months ago. She asked me what was going on and said she was a nervous wreck. She is thinking of selling the house already," said Karen Lucas, who is a real estate agent. "I told her to hold on and wait and see what happens. It's already too late to sell because buyers are aware of what's going on. We just have to wait and see."

FEMA officials acknowledge homeowners are upset but they said this means the federal government won't have to keep borrowing money to pay for the insurance.

Bellanger said he understands it's a cost-saving measure but he's still skeptical.

"You begin to wonder about it hen they get a lot of houses that were not in the flood plain and put them in the flood plain to get more money and then raise it to this degree, it just doesn't make rational sense," he said.