FAIRFIELD — An unintended problem stemming from a 2012 insurance reform has resulted in unreasonable increases in Northern California flood insurance rates, says Rep. John Garamendi in supporting legislation to address the rate spike.
“Many of my constituents recently found an unwelcome surprise in their mail box: A massive spike in their flood insurance bill,” Garamendi said in a news release. “The bipartisan Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act will help some of these Northern California residents by slowing down rate increases and lessening the financial burden for certain houses. This is an important first step.”
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who served as California’s state insurance commissioner for eight years, voted Tuesday for the Affordability Act and spoke in favor of the measure. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 306-91 and addresses the rate spikes that followed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
“We must also recognize that even if this bill becomes law tomorrow, FEMA’s system for mapping and setting rates needs significant improvement,” Garamendi said. “Because of the new maps and regulations, too many Americans are in homes facing steep hikes in their flood insurance rates beyond their means to pay and beyond a reasonable assessment of the risk.”
“I will continue to advocate for additional changes to make this insurance system predictable and fair for homeowners and taxpayers,” he said.
Garamendi spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill after Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, introduced and lauded Garamendi’s work on the bill.
Garamendi “has been advising us that we really do have to make changes in the National Flood Insurance Program,” Waters said.
Garamendi said in Isleton, part of the 3rd Congressional District he represents, the federal Army Corps of Engineers downgraded a zone that was mapped with 100-year flood protection and listed the area as a high hazard. A resident who had paid $700 a year for the flood insurance faces a $7,000 cost this a year – about twice the mortgage on the $115,000 house, Garamendi said.
That’s not workable, he said.
Property owners in the area face insurance premiums of $10,000 and $25,000, the congressman said.
The new legislation would stop that, Garamendi said, and move things back to provide time to deal with the fundamental problem in flood insurance – catastrophic coverage that has to be spread out across the nation.
He praised the measure, called for a vote and for Congress to solve the problem.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]