Hearing to discuss flood insurance planned

The Lycoming County Planning Commission will host a hearing to discuss the effects of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 with representatives from the banking, real estate and insurance industries, and the public.

The hearing will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Klump Auditorium, Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Although the legislation went into effect July 6, 2012, with the phase-in period, the impact largely struck this October with premium renewals, said Fran McJunkin, deputy director, county planning commission, GIS and Assessment.

Locally, the legislation especially is hitting the Jersey Shore, Muncy, Montgomery communities, and some along the Lycoming Creek, she said. In Jersey Shore, 800 of the 1,600 structures are in the 100-year flood plain. Some of those rates are jumping from $800 or $1,000 a year to $6,000 to $10,000 a year, she said.

It’s not just an issue for those living in the flood plain; if those residents can’t afford the insurance and move, that tax base is lost, and then, “everybody else pays more,” McJunkin said.

“I believe we need as a community to look at the situation, and as a larger community, understand it affects all of us,” she said.

She emphasized the need for local Congressmen to be at the meeting.

“This is a federal issue; we want our Congressmen there,” McJunkin said. “Our representatives need to know this is an issue in our community for those in the flood plain and outside of it.”

In 1968, Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Program as flood insurance was too expensive for homeowners to purchase, she said. In 1972, Congress required anyone who had a federally backed mortgage to carry flood insurance. To help people in the flood plain to buy it, homes built before 1981 were grandfathered into the program, even though those homes didn’t meet flood regulations. Those homes were given a special rate, she said, and now those rates are being phased out because of this recent law.

The law’s intent is to remove all subsidies from flood insurance over time because “the flood insurance program is deeply in debt,” she said. Until 2005, the program was self-sustaining, but a series of severe hurricanes caused major flooding, and the program is now $26 billion in debt.

“We have some old communities that are built the same way as in 1968. … What we’re seeing is the true cost of living in the flood plain,” McJunkin said.

She noted houses built after 1981 and in compliance with these ordinances won’t be affected, as those homeowners already are paying full rates.

Those who bought a house after Oct. 1 this year also paid full rates.