Flood insurance rates panic homeowners in Tampa Bay

By Chris Hopper , Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 03, 2013, 5:33 PM EDT

Flood insurance rates are about to go up for thousands of people in the Tampa Bay area, and it’s causing some people to panic.

Eric and Mary Anderson live in their dream home, but they’re trying to sell it so they can buy something a little bigger for their grandkids.

The problem is, no one wants it.

“We’re currently paying a premium of $1,706 a year, we’re looking at the potential for it to go up to in the neighborhood of $11,000 to $12,000 a year,” said Eric Anderson, Treasure Island homeowner.

Eric Anderson is one of the special few who risked his life for his country, but the wounded veteran is like 51,000 others in Pinellas County facing massive flood insurance rate hikes.

“It’s not exactly the American dream that we fought for.”

It’s the result of the flood insurance reform Congress passed last year.

The goal is to reduce the National Flood Insurance Program’s $20 billion debt.

On October 1st though, some owners of homes built before 1975 in flood prone areas will start to lose subsidies, raising premiums by thousands of dollars a year.

Jeff DeNight, the Anderson’s insurance agent, said Pinellas County will be one of the hardest hit areas in the country.

“We’re looking at flood rates going up anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 so you can do the math it’s going to be devastating on the real estate market,” said Jeff DeNight, Bentley DeNight Insurance.

Amy Seeks, Chair of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, agrees with DeNight.

“Most definitely it’ll come to a screeching halt the properties along the beaches especially and those in flood prone zones it’s going to be very difficult for people to have any interest in purchasing them let alone be able to afford to,” said Amy Seeks, Chair of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.

That’s why some people are pushing Congress to at least delay the reform during the next session.

Congressman Bill Young sent a letter to the Administrator of FEMA and said, “An increase of this magnitude could devastate the fragile real estate market in many of the beach communities I represent, a market that is just beginning to recover.”

Pinellas County is not alone.

Hillsborough and other Tampa Bay area counties have their fair share of homes that would be affected by this reform.

An amendment to delay it has already passed the House.

The Senate will take it up during the next session which begins on September 9th.