The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

January 15, 2014

Flood insurance premiums may soar

DANVILLE — Increases in flood insurance premiums are causing problems for homeowners and businesses, Fred Gaffney told the Montour County commissioners Tuesday.

The president of the Columbia/Montour Chamber of Commerce, Gaffney said there is a phase-out period over a period of years for premium increases except if a property is sold, the new owner would be faced with a full-load premium payment.

“This poses problems to residential and commercial properties and affordability,” he said.

Legislation was passed in 2012 to phase out flood insurance subsidies starting in October.

The cost of local flood insurance policies has been increasing since October because the National Flood Insurance Program is insolvent, Gaffney said. “Owners are seeing premiums go up three, four and 10 times,” he said.

“Danville is impacted. There are around 100 subsidized policies in Montour County,” he said.

He said he has spoken to U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey and was to speak Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey about legislation proposed to delay the phase-outs of subsidy premiums.

“This will have a significant impact on a number of Danville properties,” he said.

Commissioner Jerry Ward said he was contacted by people living on a hill where their property elevation information had been changed and they have been told they need flood insurance.

A family along River Road lived 50 feet above the flood area, but couldn’t get a mortgage because they were told they needed flood insurance, Ward said. “They finally got the loan,” he said. He said local municipalities should be told how to “fight this or told what the process is.”

“This takes a lot of time for a homeowner to fight,” he said.

He asked Gaffney to have the lawmakers he has been speaking with check the elevation issue out as well. “I will have to do more digging. I understand a person needs an elevation certification when selling a property,” Gaffney said. He said he understood that certification cost $800.

Ward said he thought that cost was a hardship on a homeowner.

Regarding flood insurance rates, Gaffney said one of the legislators primarily responsible for the legislation quickly realized the negative impact “of unintended consequences.”

“This impacts people across the U.S.” he said.

A delay in phase-outs in the insurance rates will allow more time “to look at the full scope of the situation,” he said, adding “this legislation will be a short-term delay.”

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