Editorial: Louisiana home owners neck deep in flood insurance costs

State lawmakers got an earful last week about the harm the reduction of federal subsidies for federal flood insurance would

cause on Louisiana property owners.

Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act last year, requiring that the National Flood Insurance Program

raise rates to reflect true flood risk.

But testimony before the joint Louisiana House and Senate Insurance committees, chaired by state Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish,

R-Jennings, revealed the chaos huge flood insurance premium increases will cause homeowners and businesses.

St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre choked back tears when he relayed the story of an 81-year-old woman who said

if she lost her home because of skyrocketing flood insurance rates, she would commit suicide.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake

Charles, a State Farm Insurance agent, said one customer received a

$14,155 flood insurance

premium for a house valued at $90,000. He said another customer

saw their annual flood insurance premium go from $400 to $24,000.

Those horror tales are being felt throughout south Louisiana.

Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., said a homeowner with a residence valued at $350,000 in Belle Chasse saw their

flood insurance go from $412 annually to $15,184.

Jefferson Parish President John Young Jr. said home values in neighboring St. Charles Parish have fallen as much as 30 percent

since the rate changes.

“If you’re like me, your biggest investment is in your home,” he said. “That’s the American dream. ... Home ownership is going

to be taken away.

Hecht said these rate hikes would have a devastating cascade effect through Louisiana’s economy. He said homeowners would

not only lose the value in homes, banks would lose their mortgage portfolio.

“The cure is going to kill the patient,” Hecht said.

Johns and others complained about the flippant attitude of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has produced flood

maps that seemingly ignore flood control structures like levees and put land that has never flooded in flood-prone status.

Hecht said the new FEMA flood maps are not risk-based, they are “fantasy-based.”

Johns said a NFIP representative told him recently, “‘Sir, well maybe your client doesn’t need to live so close to the water.’”

In south Louisiana? Give us a break.

Lawmakers were told their best plan

of action is to call their colleagues in other states to plead their

case. But that shouldn’t

be limited to elected officials.

This is going to take a massive

lobbying effort on the part of all Louisiana residents to overturn a

policy that could ultimately

be more ruinous to the state than any hurricane.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.