Lafitte homeowners feel relief from flood insurance bill

LAFITTE, LA (WVUE) - Joey Harvey's flood insurance bill is due Saturday - $6,500 for his Lafitte home.

"How many people can afford that?" he asks. "I mean, if one thing happens to either me or my wife, we're in a bind."

Harvey hopes he'll soon get some of the money back. President Obama signed into law Friday a bill that fixes flaws in the Biggert-Waters Act. Sen. Mary Landrieu called it a bipartisan victory.

"I think the big win for this effort was that we were able to put affordability back into the National Flood Insurance Program," she says. "It had been taken out two years ago with the passage of the Biggert-Waters bill."

The legislation stops skyrocketing flood insurance rates and returns grandfathering to hundreds of thousands of properties across the country.

"If you built your house at a certain elevation, it's going to stay at that elevation regardless of maps changing so your rates are basically going to stay the same," says Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans, Inc. "Then, importantly, if you go and sell your house, the new owner gets the grandfather rate, gets the old rate so you can continue to sell your house."

The new legislation also says individual property premiums can only go up 18 percent per year and it challenges FEMA to keep rates under one percent of the value of the policy.

That should keep most homeowner policies below $2,500 a year.

Congressman Steve Scalise says even before the President signed the legislation, its effects were being felt.

"Just in the last week, since the Senate passed the House bill, we were getting calls from realtors that were saying homes that were sitting on the market for over a year, nobody would even look at buying them are all of a sudden being sold now," says Scalise.

For homeowner Becky Domangue, it means she won't have to sell. She never wants to leave Lafitte, but thought the cost of flood insurance might force her out.

"I just have so much here," she says. "I have wonderful friends. I have family and just everything's here, I couldn't do it."

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