U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Thursday joined residents and local officials in Brick, N.J., to call on Congress to pass the Homeowner’s Flood Insurance Affordability Act.
The bipartisan, bicameral bill, originally introduced by Sen. Menendez on the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and then reintroduced last month, would freeze federal flood insurance premium increases on most properties impacted by the new flood insurance rate maps until the Federal Emergency Management Agency completes an affordability study, provides solutions to mitigate their effect and scientifically certifies their accuracy.
“Even as they recover from the worst natural disaster in our state’s history, homeowners are being faced with a man-made disaster in the form of skyrocketing flood insurance premiums,” said Sen. Menendez.
“This legislation simply provides temporary relief to property owners — many here in Brick — who played by the rules and are now poised to see their most valuable asset become worthless through no fault of their own,” the senator said.
“It is very important for people to get back into their homes and be able to afford to stay in them rather than be forced out by high flood insurance rates,” added Brick Mayor John Ducey.
A wave of insurance claims after Hurricane Katrina put the National Flood Insurance Program on the verge of bankruptcy. In 2012, Congress passed a law, known as Biggert-Waters, to restore its solvency. But drastic rate increases mandated by Biggert-Waters are placing a tremendous burden on recovering flood victims, according to Sen. Menendez.
“There remain millions of people that have no knowledge of how negatively affected they will be if Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 is implemented without the amendments proposed by Senator Menendez,” said Ron Jampel, founder of the group Save Our Communities, which is comprised of Sandy survivors along the Jersey Shore.
“For many New Jerseyans still trying to get their lives back together, this ‘perfect storm’ of events is simply overwhelming,” wrote Sen. Menendez in a Dec. 20, 2013 Asbury Park Press op-ed. “It threatens to force victims out of their homes, cause property values to drop, and is a major obstacle to a full and robust recovery from Sandy. So while it’s true that we must make sure the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is on more stable footing, we need to do so sensibly in order to avoid catastrophic unintended consequences.”
In order to minimize the impact on the solvency of the NFIP, Sen. Menendez’s legislation exempts second homes, businesses or properties that were substantially damaged or suffered severe repetitive floods. It also further secures its solvency by providing temporary relief from skyrocketing premiums and avoiding a resulting wave of cash-strapped homeowners dropping out of the program.
The Homeowner’s Flood Insurance Affordability Act has received broad support, including 28 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate, eight of them Republicans. The measure has also been endorsed by the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Homebuilders, the American Bankers’ Association, the Independent Community Bankers’ Association and the National League of Cities.
“Flood insurance isn’t just a coastal issue or a northeast issue — it’s an issue that affects every state,” Sen. Menendez stated. “The fact is every state has properties covered by the National Flood Insurance Program — and every state will see premiums on some of those properties increase.”
Source: The office of Sen. Robert Menendez