Dauphin Co. leaders worry about rising flood insurance rates

Judy Polliard says she’d like to sell her home some time in the next two years, but she worries rising flood insurance premiums may make that impossible.

“I would likely have to let this house go,” says Polliard, who has lived in Harrisburg’s Shipoke neighborhood for nearly four decades. “I think that it would virtually ruin the neighborhood, as well as Harrisburg is struggling to get back on its feet now.”

She already pays more than $2,200 per year for flood insurance, and her rate could go significantly higher.

In 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act, which was aimed at helping the financially strapped National Flood Insurance Program.

Following major events like Hurricane Katrina, the program is about $24 billion in debt.

The law cuts insurance subsidies in flood-prone areas and has resulted in some homeowners seeing dramatic hikes in flood insurance premiums.

Jamie Berrier, a partner and realtor at RSR Realtors in Lemoyne, said she had a client in November who was interested in buying a house in Judy Polliard’s neighborhood. Berrier said her client checked into what his flood insurance rate would be.

“The current homeowner was paying about $1200 a year, and his would likely in the next couple years go to $7,000,” said Berrier.

No surprise, her client backed out.

“If this drives folks out of their houses, they’re going to leave properties foreclosed, (in) bankruptcy, whatever it is, you’ll have vacant properties, which devalues the properties around it,” said Berrier.

The Dauphin County Commission heard testimony from residents and other stakeholders Wednesday morning, many of whom expressed concern about whether Congress would do anything to alleviate the burden on homeowners.

Last month, the Senate voted to delay implementation of the law for four years.

This week, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) announced a majority of House members are supporting that legislation.

But, some House leaders are concerned about passing the Senate bill, citing the reforms in the original Biggert-Waters Act that they feel are needed to prevent the flood insurance program from falling further into debt.

In Dauphin County “there are 13,205 parcels of land in a 100-year or 500-year flood plain, 11.89 percent of the total parcels of land within the county,” according to a news release. County leaders provided  this analysis (click here) of the potential impacts of the Act on each of the county’s 40 municipalities.