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November 12, 2013

Flood insurance changes may swamp homeowners

(Continued)

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. —

"Something had to happen," Brett said.

Sparked partly by real estate agent worries and confused or angry voters, lawmakers across the hurricane-prone South are seeking to delay or change the new guidelines.

Mississippi sued the federal government last month to block the rate hikes, pointing to figures that 41 percent of homeowners living in areas where flood insurance is mandatory fall under low to moderate income guidelines, The Associated Press reported.

On Oct. 10, Florida joined the lawsuit.

Even the 2012 law's co-author – Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California – is now backing efforts that would delay rate hikes for most affected by the changes.

Under a proposal introduced this month, only homes that have been repeatedly flooded in recent years and "second homes" would see increases. Those hikes would be phased in 25 percent annually over a four-year period.

"I'm extremely concerned about reports that homeowners in certain areas are facing high and unsustainable flood insurance rates," Waters said in a press release. "The intent was not to impose punitive or unaffordable rate hikes that could make it difficult for some to remain in their homes."

The proposed changes cleared a bipartisan committee but a date for their consideration on the House floor was not set as of this week.

David Hurst writes for The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pa.

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