Residents and business leaders blast flood insurance hikes - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Residents and business leaders blast flood insurance hikes

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Officials and residents gather to discuss impact of flood insurance changes. Officials and residents gather to discuss impact of flood insurance changes.

Bayou Gauche, La. — Southeast Louisiana has suffered significant flooding from storms and hurricanes in recent years. But property owners say they do not deserve what Washington is dishing out.

The National Flood Insurance Program is raising insurance premiums to reflect an area's true flood risk. But some say FEMA has not taken into account all of the upgrades to flood protection in some areas.

Robert and Lisa Taylor hosted area-elected officials at their home in the St. Charles Parish community of Bayou Gauche Friday, driving home the point that the proposed changes to FEMA's flood maps will drive many from their homes and businesses.

The Taylors gave U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) more than 1,100 keys to homes and businesses as part of their argument that flood insurance will become too expensive, and people still paying mortgages will not be able to afford to remain in their properties.

"Take them back to Washington, tell the legislators there that unless these laws change, these keys are useless to us," Mr. Taylor said.

They are blasting the Biggert-Waters Act, signed into law last summer.  It eliminates low flood insurance rates and subsidies for high-risk areas and scraps a grandfather clause for properties built according to earlier codes and standards.

"It's kind of hard when you tell somebody, 'Here's the rules, follow the game, do what you're supposed to do,' and then come back afterwards and say, 'Oh no, that's not right. Here are the new rules and here's the new rate.'  $28,554... that's insane, that crazy, it's criminal," Taylor said.

The feds say the NFIP is in serious debt and reforms are required. But Louisiana officials believe there is a way to achieve that without bankrupting residents and business owners.

"That we have a good, stable, sustainable National Flood Insurance Program and we have one that doesn't price people out of their homes," said Sen. Vitter.

"Just coming off the disaster with [Hurricane] Isaac, this is another blow that we cannot afford to take," said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom.

Resident Catherine Porthouse said she could see a 5,300-percent hike in her flood insurance premium because of the changes. "So almost $24,000 a year is the actuarial rate for my home... it's daunting," she said.

And while local officials have been walking the halls of the U.S. Capitol recently, they said this issue goes well beyond south Louisiana.

"What's happening in southern Plaquemines is going to happen in southern Manhattan," said Michael Hecht, CEO of GNO, Inc.

The Taylors said they would face financial devastation if forced to pay a premium of nearly $30,000.

"Foreclosure... we can't pay that. If this isn't fixed we will lose our home," said Lisa Taylor.

Hecht said, as part of their action plan to fight the changes, they are reaching out to other coastal communities to build a national coalition.

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