Menendez Pushes for Flood Insurance Affordability Act

January 2, 2014 | Politics

By Lauren Wanko

Frustrated, storm-weary shore residents worry how they can afford to continue to live along the Jersey coast.

“I am at this point paying just under $800 a year in flood insurance, but being three feet below base flood elevation according to the new FEMA maps, I would be looking at $10,000 to $14,000 a year in flood insurance premiums,” said Point Pleasant resident Peggy Molloy.

The Point Pleasant resident says she’s left with no options.

“Really what I’m looking at is just walking away, stop paying the mortgage,” she said.

The National Flood Insurance Program was on the verge of bankruptcy. In 2012 Congress passed a law to restore its solvency. Flood insurance premiums, for some residents, are set to increase 25 percent per year for four years or until they reach the actual cost of full-risk coverage. Homeowners say the rate increases are terrifying.

“I’m retired. I’m on a fixed income. Am I gonna be chased out of my house because I’m not gonna be able to afford to live there anymore?” asked Brick Township resident Maria Ammerata.

“I’d probably have to sell the house but right now houses aren’t selling and I probably would get one-third the price I would have gotten before the storm,” said Mae Kelleher of Brick Township.

“Today we have a ticking time bomb, and that’s this question of flood insurance,” said Sen. Robert Menendez.

Senator Robert Menendez today joined shore residents and local officials in Brick to call on Congress to pass the Homeowner’s Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

“A bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that would ensure people in Brick and everywhere can afford flood insurance so they can stay in their homes, so businesses can stay open and we can keep property values from plummeting,” Menendez explained.

The bill would freeze federal flood insurance premium increases on most properties impacted by the new flood insurance rate maps until FEMA completes an affordability study and proposes a regulatory frame work to address the issues found in the study.

“It would also require FEMA to certify in writing it has implemented a flood mapping approach that utilizes sound, scientific and engineering methodologies before certain rate reforms are eliminated,” Menendez said.

The legislation applies to primary homeowners.

There’s a duplicate bill in the House of Representatives. Meantime, Sen. Menendez hopes for a vote on the Senate floor later this month.