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Washington Beat: House Approves Bill That Prevents Steep Flood Insurance Rate Hikes

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TWC News: Washington Beat: House Approves Bill That Prevents Steep Flood Insurance Rate Hikes
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The House passed a bill Tuesday that would spare homeowners from steep flood insurance rate hikes. Washington reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

It took some time, but House leaders were finally able to pass legislation that would put the brakes on rising flood insurance rates.

The legislation is in response to a 2012 law that aims to shore up the debt-saddled flood insurance program by putting premiums in line with risk.

Some lawmakers say that that law has made insurance in flood zones, including those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, unaffordable to many homeowners.

"You cannot have a more bipartisan bill," said Rep. Michael Grimm, whose district covers Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. "At a time when there's been gridlock and gamesmanship, we've come together to deal with a very, very important issue because it goes to the heart of what we're here to do, make people's lives a little bit better."

The bill would retroactively preserve subsidies for properties that were initially built to code, but then re-mapped into higher-risk flood zones. The subsidy would remain even if the house is sold.

The legislation would also cap annual rate hikes at 18 percent.

To address the issue of lost revenue, the flood insurance program would impose a $25 annual fee on primary homes and a $250 surcharge on businesses and second homes.

"This bill will protect homeowners from drastic premium increases, provide relief to housing markets, and put the flood insurance program on a path to long-term solvency," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose district covers parts of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

Critics, both Republican and Democrat, believe that the bill would put the program on shakier financial footing.

"This is not the last word," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. "We're kicking the can down the road."

"My fear is that either bill represents a big step backwards from reform and leaves us just a few hurricanes or a few short years away from the next taxpayer bailout," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

The bill now goes to the Senate for final approval, with the hope that it quickly makes its way to the president's desk.

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