As Congress considers delay in flood insurance program, rates keep rising

ST. BERNARD, La. - Many homeowners across the region continue to see flood insurance rates rise, but you may be surprised to see who's paying the highest rates and where the biggest spikes were over the past year.

Our partners at City Business reported the following numbers from information provided to them by FEMA regarding the National Flood Insurance Program.

Westwego residents saw the largest annual increase.

An 8.8 percent hike averaged a $694 bill there in September.

In most places, rates climbed month to month.

In St. Tammany, the average policy was $5 more expensive in September than in August.

In Plaquemines, it was $10 more.

"It's frustrating. It's extremely frustrating," said St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta.

St. Bernard had the third-highest annual jump in the region at 6.5 percent. The rise came even with all the upgrades to its flood protection system.

"What has happened to considering the levee systems? We met with FEMA representatives. Some of them didn't even know that levees existed that they were standing on, and admitted so," said Peralta.

That was back in early August when Deputy FEMA Administrator David Miller toured the area.

This is what he said after seeing the improvements for the first time: "Here they've made substantial investment in mitigating their risk and we want to be able to recognize that and reflect it accordingly," said Miller on Aug. 8, 2013.

Now, more than three months later, Peralta says FEMA has by no means reflected its investments accordingly, and homeowners are suffering because of it.

"How many more times do you hit us? We have done everything. And I know you hear frustration in my voice. There's a lot of frustration, because every time we do what they ask us to do - though we may not agree with it - we still do what they ask us and tell us to do, and still we're hit with these increased rates," Peralta said.

Rates have skyrocketed in some areas, such as Yscloskey, where St. Bernard resident Robert Freire's father once lived.

"It's $3,000 or higher just to have flood insurance, so a lot of them live up here now instead of down there because they can't afford it," Freire said. "My dad went through it. He lost his home and everything. He still has the land and wanted to move back, but he can't afford the flood insurance."

According to City Business's report, Madisonville is where residents pay the highest overall rates. In September, policies there averaged $1,171 per year.