Biggert-Waters reform act awaits Obama’s signature

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 15, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – The United States Senate passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act by a vote of 72-22 on March 13. The bill will now head to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

“I congratulate everyone who got involved from the beginning and proved how important and significant this issue was not only to the River Region & South Louisiana, but to every State in the Union,” said St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel. “Because of the coalition built across the country, we were able to create a bipartisan effort that had not been realized too often in Congress on such a concern.”

The HFIAA is the first meaningful legislation to undo the devastating premium increases outlined in the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act. The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the same measure 306 – 91.

“After many months of hard work, our voices were finally heard,” said St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom. “We are elated with the National Flood Insurance Program victory and the opportunity to revise and craft a long-term solution for flood insurance for our residents and the community.”

Highlights of the HFIAA include limiting yearly premium increases to an average of 15 percent per year for each of the nine property categories listed by FEMA, with no individual policyholder paying more than an 18 percent increase per year; urging the NFIP administrator to ensure most policyholders have a premium of no more than 1 percent of the value of coverage; removing the so-called “sales trigger” that would have forced homeowners into actuarial rates when a home changes ownership; including a $25 surcharge for most homeowner policyholders and a $250 fee for non-residential property and non-primary homeowners; and allowing local governments to be reimbursed for successful flood map appeals.  

River Region residents and elected officials have been instrumental since 2013 in the push to correct key provisions in Biggert Waters, which did away with grandfathering of properties and allowed the NFIP to raise rates in excess of $28,000 per year depending on flood risk zone remapping.

“I am so proud of the effort put forth by our residents to ultimately bring about this legislation,” St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said. “We’ll be watching implementation moving forward, but for now we’re happy that we’ve got more affordable flood rates to deal with in the interim.”