Flood Insurance Bill Ensures Affordable Rates in First District

During the seventeenth century, English jurist Sir Edward Coke wrote, “A man’s house is his castle and fortress.” From this quote, we’ve got the legal principle that no person may enter another’s home without permission; making homes a safe haven for owners.

The act of home ownership echoes America’s priorities of freedom and liberty, and many citizens have or aspire to have their own “castles,” regardless of how big or small.
Sadly, government often gets in the way of who can affordably live within certain parts of the country. In fact, many of Arkansas’ First District residents recently encountered these hardships while paying off their mortgages; often, it happened overnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency—otherwise known as FEMA—remapped what it considered “flood zones,” including large swaths of communities and rural areas which never faced this label. FEMA’s one-size-fits-all action triggered a chain reaction, resulting in unforeseen expenses for residents within these areas.

Many of these homeowners never carried flood insurance, because only houses within flood zones required that sort of coverage. When the remapping took effect, mortgage companies realized many borrowers without flood insurance suddenly needed it; borrowers years into those mortgages, too. In turn, borrowers often had trouble accessing flood insurance through their insurance providers because of availability or expense. Many borrowers looked to the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for an affordable level of protection meeting their mortgage companies’ requirements. However, a 2012 law stood to create massive spikes for NFIP premiums.
It’s similar to running a track and field event and having an onlooker unexpectedly place hurdles on the track in the middle of the race. Meanwhile, that person raises the hurdles further into the race. It shouldn’t happen, and it’s not how our government should operate.

I appreciate every constituent who informed me about this situation, and I’m happy to report many of my colleagues joined me in correcting this flaw.

In November, I cosponsored H.R. 3370, known as the “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013.” Earlier this month, both the House and Senate passed the bill by votes of 306 to 91 and 72 to 22, respectively. This Act would allow existing—or “grandfathered”—borrowers within remapped flood zones to continue having access to below-market rates, and it requires FEMA’s Administrator to cap premium increases at 18 percent annually; ensuring affordable housing remains an option for residents unfortunate to live within FEMA’s new boundaries.

It’s a start to correcting this issue. Ultimately though, until we limit government agencies from unnecessarily creating burdensome regulations for First District homeowners, we’ll continue pushing to make a man’s or woman’s house, truly a castle.

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