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Flood Insurance Costs Creating 'Ghost Towns'

09-08-2014
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Rising costs of flood insurance are raising an alarm for property owners all over the United States, leaving as many as 1 million policy holders at the mercy of both natural and political forces.

Michael and Lurie Portanova are lifelong residents of Jersey Shore, a river town in central Pennsylvania.

They bought a row of 19th-century shops and planned to open a riverfront inn, cafe, and boat rental business.

But those plans recently came to an end. The Portanovas found flood insurance premiums on two of their buildings had soared.

Plans used to be less than $3,000, but now they're facing quotes of around $40,000 a year.

"We'll just have to walk away. I mean, there's just no way we could afford $40,000 a year," Mike Portanova said.

Thousands of Americans face similar situations.

The premium increase is part of a 2012 reform aimed at helping the national flood insurance program recover from a $24 billion debt.

The shortfall was created by discounts and a series of catastrophic events, including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

Although Congress is seeking to ease fears by rolling back that reform many say the damage is done.

"It's going to turn the towns that are on the river into ghost towns. Because nobody's going to want to pay that. Nobody's going to want to live here. Property values are going to plummet," Paul Garrett, a homeowner in Jersey Shore, said.

National flood insurance program data shows communities in every state will suffer from price hikes, making entire communities unaffordable and unmarketable.

For now, policy holders can only hope rates stay low long enough for Congress to overhaul the program when it is up for renewal in 2017.

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