Royal Palm Beach Councilman Jeff Hmara reported last month that the recently passed Homeowners Affordable Flood Protection Act will limit the amount by which property owners’ flood insurance premiums can increase to 18 percent per year.
The bill cleared the U.S. Congress on Thursday, March 13 and was signed by President Barack Obama on Friday, March 21.
Hmara addressed the issue at the March 20 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, just hours before the bill became law.
“This legislation is intended to negate the sudden negative impacts of skyrocketing and substantially larger insurance rates for flood insurance, and the act itself is the result of compromise, and oftentimes the results from a compromise are some good things and some not-so-good things,” Hmara said. “In this particular case, the residents who find themselves in newly mapped flood plains will find themselves with a gradual rather than a sudden increase, but nevertheless an increase in rates for their flood insurance.”
Hmara said that there are many details in the act that he recommended homeowners review. “I’d be glad to discuss them with anybody individually if they’d like,” he said.
He added that at the state level, there are matching bills in both houses of the Florida Legislature to encourage private insurance companies to get involved in flood insurance.
“They believe that competitive influence will drive down the cost,” Hmara said. “The insurance companies are more likely to get involved once the president signs the Homeowners Affordable Flood Insurance Act, because it will become a more dependable framework. Less uncertainty means that they will be able to assess whether it’s worthwhile or not for them to get involved.”
The new flood plain maps themselves are the real key, he said.
“That’s what we’ve been looking at on a local level, trying to provide new, updated elevation information,” Hmara explained.
He said the revised maps are expected to be much more accurate.
“It doesn’t mean that the flood plain situation will exempt all of us as it has in the past,” he said. “In fact, some of the homes in Royal Palm Beach will find themselves within the flood plain in accordance with the flood maps, even though they are much more accurate than when we first received them last year.”
The new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps are expected to be released sometime in June. “They are expected to show the much more accurate flood information that our staff has contributed to, along with the results of the C-51 study,” Hmara said.
FEMA public open houses, which had been postponed last year after widespread public outcry, are expected to be conducted in several different locations throughout the county, so residents can actually see the maps and how they could affect their flood insurance before they are officially adopted.
“FEMA, at that point in time, will provide information about what individual homeowners might be able to do about those situations,” he said.
When the maps are released, there will be a 90-day appeal period, and a least a year before they actually go into effect.
“There are a lot of things going on, and it’s important for us to stay involved and stay aware of what’s happening,” Hmara said.
ABOVE: Royal Palm Beach Councilman Jeff Hmara.