Some homeowners brace for huge flood insurance hikes

Published: Sep. 25, 2013 at 9:17 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2013 at 11:43 PM CDT
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BELLE CHASSE, La. - As the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act moves toward implementation, many property owners across the metro area are on edge.

Scott Morse purchased his home in the Jesuit Bend area of Plaquemines Parish in January.

"It was our dream come true," he said.

Now, however, because Morse's home sits outside the federal levee protection system, he's facing an insurance nightmare.

"Our insurance is going to go from $400 a year - which it currently is - to potentially, $13,000, maybe even higher, depending on contents and things like that," Morse said. "It will exceed our mortgage note."

Morse, who serves as president of the Greater New Orleans Homebuilders Association, has been working to round up support from other property owners, in hopes of delaying this negative effect of the Biggert-Waters Act.

If the expected insurance spike kicks in, Morse said he simply won't be able to afford to live in his home anymore.

"Sadly, the best thing that could happen to us would be if a storm came and wiped it off the slab and then we could make our claim, pay what's here off, and just leave it as an empty," he said. "That is the only good possible outcome we could get with what we're facing."

Bill Bubrig, who also lives outside the protection system in Plaquemines Parish, is staring down a similar scenario.

"I go from a rate of $600 a year to $15,000 a year, is how I'm personally affected on my personal residence," he said.

However, Bubrig faces a double-whammy. As owner of Bubrig Insurance Agency, much of his business is flood insurance and many of his customers are fearful.

"We're fielding a load of calls. People don't know what to do, because people with mortgages are between a rock and a hard spot. The mortgage requires them to carry the flood insurance. They can't pay a $15,000 annual flood insurance premium plus their mortgage," he said. "So, not only will I be hit personally, but my business is going to be negatively affected, as people just can't afford to pay these premiums."

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) have been pushing to delay or scrap the changes. Last week, both testified before a Senate committee.

But, if their efforts don't work, some people like Scott Morse face major financial challenges.

"It's either come up with a whole bunch of money, which I don't have, or move out," Morse said.