Paying their own way

Why should taxpayers bail out hundreds of thousands of waterfront property owners by allowing them to delay paying sharply higher premiums for federal flood insurance?

This question now comes before the U.S. House of Representatives, which is about to consider legislation recklessly passed earlier this week by the Senate.

This newspaper urges the House to ignore complaints by angry shoreline residents and force them to comply with a government mandate issued two years ago that would reverse billions of dollars in losses by the federal flood insurance program. The program is now $24 billion in debt to taxpayers.

We realize there are numerous households along southeastern Connecticut's shoreline that now face significantly higher insurance costs, and we sympathize with those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by flood waters from hurricanes and other violent storms. But it is unfair to ask inland property owners to subsidize those along the coast and near flood-prone rivers who long have been warned about the risks of living at the water's edge - especially with the sea level rising and storm intensity growing.

The bill would delay for up to four years substantial premium increases due to be phased in next year and beyond following an update of government flood maps. Homeowners also would be allowed to pass below-cost policies on to people who buy their homes.

Some shoreline residents have complained about being forced to sell weekend cottages that have been in their families for generations. That is unfortunate, but we remind them that owning waterfront property is a privilege, not a right. If they feel so strongly about having the public support such a privilege, they should consider letting the public share the privilege of using their beach.

Of course, if someone is absolutely determined to build or rebuild a house on the water, let them pay for reconstruction if - or more likely, after - the next storm strikes.

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