By JOY BROWN
Congress has rolled back a law that dramatically increased the costs of many flood insurance policies, but hundreds of policyholders in Findlay and Ottawa are still likely to see their premiums climb in coming years.
While residents of the two towns are likely to pay more into the National Flood Insurance Program, they also have taken more out. Findlay leads the state in flood insurance payouts, with nearly $35 million since joining the program in 1984. Ottawa is fifth in the state with $9.3 million in payouts.
“It doesn’t shock me,” Todd Richard, Findlay’s flood plain administrator, said of the payments made to Findlay policyholders. “This certainly shows how flood-prone we are here.”
A law, signed Friday by President Obama, provided relief from rate increases for government-subsidized flood insurance for older homes and businesses in flood zones, but the law did not repeal the rate hikes. The law reset the rates, and now they will begin climbing again, although at a slower pace, the Associated Press reports.
About 20,000 homeowners in Ohio with subsidized policies, and at least 820,000 homeowners across the nation, will still get hit with rate increases of up to 18 percent each year until their premiums reflect the true risk of flooding, the AP reports.
Owners of another quarter-million U.S. businesses or second homes will see their rates rise 25 percent each year.
According to state and national statistics that the Associated Press gathered from the National Flood Insurance Program, as of December 2012, the number of subsidized flood insurance policies in Findlay was 809, or 73 percent of all policies in the city. Ninety-six policies are for businesses.
The number facing 18 percent annual increases is 575, the data shows. The number facing annual 25 percent increases is 234.
In Ottawa, as of December 2012, there were 128 subsidized policies, or 42 percent of all policies.
Thirty-four of those are subject to 25 percent annual increases and 94 are subject to 18 percent annual increases, the data shows. Sixteen are businesses.
No one is sure how high flood insurance rates will go, but the concern is that they could skyrocket so much that some houses are no longer affordable.
Jim Geyer, president of the Heartland Board of Realtors, has warned that rising flood insurance premiums are already having a negative impact on some housing sales in the region.
Data collected by the AP shows that flood insurance policyholders in Findlay have received more in payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program than those in any other Ohio city.
Since the city joined the insurance program in 1984, the program has paid $34.9 million to Findlay policyholders for flood damage.
The second-highest payment total is for policyholders in Independence, at $12.9 million. Cincinnati is third at $11.1 million.
Findlay’s top ranking for payouts isn’t surprising to Richard, Findlay’s flood plain administrator.
“Look at our flood plain and look at how populated it is,” he said. “It’s just how people settled around here way back when … and the way the city has developed over time.”
Richard said the city during the past 30 years has had at least a dozen floods “that have had the potential, or have actually caused property damage.”
“When you think about other big cities that have flooding problems, like down around Cincinnati and up at Toledo around the Maumee River … they may be kind of surprised to see that we’re that high” with flood insurance payouts, Richard said.
Findlay also tops the state with flood insurance claims made, 1,829 since joining the insurance program.
The unincorporated part of Ottawa County is the runner-up with 1,114 claims made.
Flag City ranked in the top five in other notable flood insurance categories, too, figures obtained by the AP show.
With 1,115, Findlay ties Columbus for the number of flood insurance policies in force. The unincorporated part of Ottawa County is the highest at 1,407 and Toledo is second-highest with 1,351.
For insurance coverage that is in force, Findlay placed fourth in the state at $157.5 million. Columbus, Ottawa County and Toledo ranked higher, at $261.1 million, $215.1 million and $210.8, respectively.
Findlay has the second-highest amount of premiums in force, with just over $1 million. Toledo is highest, with about $43,000 more.
“We have known since 2007 that Findlay ranks high in these categories and this particular information is what we use to show our legislators that fixing the flooding issues in Findlay helps solve a large financial burden” for the National Flood Insurance Program, Mayor Lydia Mihalik said. “With the NFIP being underfunded by billions of dollars, it makes sense” that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “would be motivated to help us develop a solution.”
Mihalik said the numbers also illustrate the extent to which the federal government could help Findlay residents by allowing the city to enroll in the Community Rating System, a points-based flood insurance rate reduction program that provides anywhere from 5 to 45 percent reductions for policyholders in particular communities.
The program “could save our residents significant amounts of money in their premiums,” Mihalik said.