Parish residents should brace for flood insurrance impact

With Congress deciding the National Flood Insurance Program must pay for itself, certain St. Mary Parish residents can brace for increases in premiums.

“People certainly are going to feel this impact,” said Duval Arthur, parish Homeland Security director.

Arthur said premiums already have risen in light of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, but will increase even more with the change. Where the federal government previously subsidized premiums, that no longer will be the case, he explained.

Farm Bureau agent Gwen Lacy said all flood insurance has seen a small increase, “maybe 10 percent across the board.”

“We all (agencies) write through the National Flood Insurance Program, and we really don’t know anything about it until it happens. What rates will be affected? Is it just the designated flood zones or people who are designated preferred risk,” Lacy said.

The difference between a home in a designated flood zone and one in a preferred risk zone is staggering.

For instance, she said, some of the highest premiums are paid in Auburn Subdivision where a home insured for $150,000 may pay $1,500 annually. Meanwhile, a home insured for $250,000 in a preferred risk zone averages a $410 annual premium.

“I’m really surprised that they’ve waited so long (to increase flood premiums) after Katrina and Rita and now all this with Hurricane Sandy,” she said.

Flood premiums depend on the different zones and on the elevation of the home on that property, Lacy added.

Some other areas deemed to be in high risk are Golden Farms Subdivision in Berwick, portions of land behind Teche Regional Medical Center, homes across the railroad tracks in Morgan City and the new subdivision behind the Bayou Vista Civic Center, Lacy said.

Patterson, she said, has very few areas in that zone, but there are a few south of the railroad tracks.

“People live under the assumption ‘Why should I carry flood insurance? FEMA will take care of me,’” she said.

Most areas that have flooded in the last couple of years have been in preferred risk zones, she said.

Further, she said, if a homeowner chooses to carry insurance in a preferred zone and then is rezoned as high risk, they get a discounted rate.

“We’re just brokers for the National Flood Insurance Program,” Lacy said, so each insurance agency should be quoting the same rates.

Arthur noted the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance wind rates increased within the last year as well. Citizens is the state insurer of last resort.

Citizens wind rates increased 171 percent in St. Mary Parish.

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