Brandes calls for hearing on flood insurance rate hike, as local realtors raise concerns

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Sen. Jeff Brandes is calling on the chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee to schedule a hearing to assess impending changes to the National Flood Insurance Program.

In a Sept. 20 letter to  Sen. David Simmons, Brandes warned that “Floridians across the state stand to be harmed by these changes.” He described the potential impact as “catastrophic.”

“I believe that we need to continue to pressure our Federal elected officials and encourage them to pursue a timely solution to this situation,” Brandes said. District 22, which Brandes represents, is projected to be among the hardest hit in the U.S. by the changes.

At issue are federal flood insurance rate changes that may impact up to 51,000 properties in Pinellas County.

Brandes is among a rising tide of Florida lawmakers expressing concern about the hike, due to take effect. Oct. 1.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, a St. Petersburg Democrat, has asked Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to support an amendment to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act that would impose a one-year moratorium on the federal rate changes from taking effect.

Veteran real estate broker Sharon Simms said that fears about higher flood insurance rates already are having an effect on the local market.

“Buyers are eliminating properties based on high estimated flood insurance,” said Simms, founder of ALVA International on Beach Drive. “Lenders are reducing the amount of mortgages a buyer can qualify for, because flood insurance takes a higher share of PITI ,” which is principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

Brandes echoed those concerns in his letter to Simmons. He warned that “uncertainty in the marketplace” is delaying or canceling transactions. “I share the concerns of my constituents and I believe that the impact … will be catastrophic,” he wrote.