St. Petersburg mayor warns Governor, Cabinet about ‘devastating’ flood insurance hikes

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Mayor Bill Foster warned Gov. Rick Scott today that flood insurance rate hikes could be “devastating” for thousands of St. Petersburg homeowners.

Foster was joined by area realtors, who briefed Scott and the Cabinet about potential impacts of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, which take effect Oct. 1. They called on state leaders to seek a delay from members of Congress.

Floirda Realtors President Dean Asher also spoke about the “unintended consequences” from passage of the Biggert-Waters Act.

Insurance rates are expected to go up statewide for property owners in flood-prone areas. St. Petersburg will be among the hardest hit cities, with up to 15,000 property owners facing higher insurance premiums.

“It will have a devastating effect on St. Petersburg and Pinellas County,” Foster said.

At Tuesday’s briefing with Scott and the Cabinet, Foster also suggested that Attorney General Pam Bondi could file a lawsuit to try to force a moratorium. Scott and Cabinet members had no immediate response after the briefing.

Brandi Gabbard, a St. Pete realtor who also spoke, said afterward that the low-lying Shore Acres neighborhood may be the most heavily impacted by rate increases. (Foster is a resident of Shore Acres.)

Gabbard described a Shore Acres home that recently went on the market but failed to garner any interest from buyers.

“The seller did not get even one call,” said Gabbard. “This has never happened before.”

On Wednesday, a State House Insurance subcommittee is scheduled to hear testimony from realtors and property owners about the impacts of the impending flood insurance rate hikes.