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Flood Insurance Rates Set To Rise

Two-thirds of Vermonters who are eligible for policies under the National Flood Insurance Program don’t have them.

And beginning October 1st, new policies could be much more expensive to purchase for many people living in flood hazard areas.

The new rates are the result of legislation passed last year by Congress which increases the cost of national flood insurance policies for everyone.

Chris Winters, his wife and their four children live on the Dog River in Berlin.  The Winters were told recently by their insurance company that they were required to have the flood coverage, which they hadn’t carried in the past.  The cost:  $8,000 a year.

The sticker shock is the result of a bill known as the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, passed last year.  The act was an effort to make the National Flood Insurance Program solvent and cut the expense to the government of subsidizing flood insurance policies.

Ned Swanberg is the Flood Hazard Mapping Coordinator for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The actual cost of that coverage is going to make it very difficult for a lot of people to really access the insurance, and this is particularly the case in Vermont because a lot of the structures in Vermont are older and as these structures get evaluated for risk, they’re going to be much more expensive,” says Swanberg.

Swanberg says older buildings weren’t designed with floods in mind.

He says in many cases people have let past flood insurance policies lapse, even though they are required by mortgage holders.

Swanberg says lenders typically have a contract with a third party agency which reviews the portfolio of mortgages to see if there are any structures in the high risk zone that lack flood insurance. 

Chris Winters says he doesn’t know how he’s going to be able to pay for the insurance he’s now required to have on his 165 year old house.  But he’s not going quietly.

Winters has organized a rally Saturday at noon at the State House in Montpelier.  He says many Vermonters aren’t aware that their flood insurance rates are about to go up – dramatically in some cases.

“I don’t think it’s on anybody’s radar screen really, until you get that bill and you understand, here it comes,” he says.

The rally Winters is organizing is one of a series of gatherings taking place around the country to protest the increases in flood insurance rates.

Winters hopes Congress will reconsider last year’s actions.