Flood program un-fixed

Homeowners living in flood-prone areas are feeling better after the Senate last week went along with the House of Representatives in approving a bill that reverses reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, passed in 2012.

Congress passed the reforms in 2012 because the flood insurance program is paying out far more in flood-damage awards to homeowners than it is collecting in premiums. However, property owners complained long and loudly about big premium increases and diminished home values caused by the reforms.

Congress listened and reversed field. Not surprisingly for a state in which the entire southern border is coastline, both of Connecticut's senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney, voted in favor of the "Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013."

It is understandable why homeowners in flood zones opposed the original reforms. While lavish coastal-front properties may come to mind, the majority of homes in tidal and river flood zones house the middle-class. A big jump in premiums would be a major burden.

Yet the fact remains that the federal flood insurance program remains $24 billion in debt. Other taxpayers are compelled to subsidize the discounted rates that the owners of these at-risk properties will continue to receive. That's hardly fair.

The bill will keep grandfathered in place lower rates even when new flood maps show higher risk. It repeals the requirement that homebuyers pay a full-risk rate upon purchase of a home in a flood zone. Instead, they retain the lower, subsidized rate. People who bought a home after the 2012 reforms passed will get a refund on any higher rates they paid.

The bill does include a token $25 policy surcharge to raise some additional revenues.

Given White House concerns about the stability of the flood insurance program, President Obama should veto the bill. However, given the strong support - 72-22 in the Senate, 306-91 in the House - that appears unlikely.

Congratulations to flood-zone homeowners, but at some point this program will have to be fixed.

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