Flood insurance overhaul

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: If you're on the East Coast you don't need me to tell you about flooding. Days of rain have washed out highways, canceled flights, destroyed basements. Talk about good timing: Today Congress considers changes to the national flood insurance program. Turns out it's massively in the red. Marketplace's Scott Tong tells us a vote is expected in the House today.


SCOTT TONG: The Feds provide flood insurance in high-risk areas. But a program quirk gives owners of older homes a massive subsidy in premiums. They pay less than half of what they should.

That's one reason the program takes in just $2 billion a year. But last year it paid out more than $20 billion in claims.

Robert Hunter of the Consumer Federation of America is a former insurance regulator.

ROBERT HUNTER: The congressional delegations have been shocked at the amount of money that's being paid out just to cover the losses from hurricane Katrina

The house bill would phase out the premium subsidy, which for some homeowners means payments could double, even triple.

That could chill real estate markets in, say, coastal areas. To which Hunter says, it's about time.

HUNTER: If upheaval in development means we can't build in unsafe places, because they shouldn't be built in the first place, that's good.

Housing industry lobbyists expect some version of the bill to become law.

In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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