Clearwater, Florida - Flanked by dozens of people in the real estate industry, on Tuesday Governor Rick Scott predicted dire consequences of the flood insurance hikes that kick in this month.
"This is absolutely unfair and it could devastate the real estate market right here in Tampa," Scott said. But the Governor did not offer any help from the state in solving the crisis, but blamed it all on President Barack Obama. "President Obama signed this law that hurts Florida homeowners," Scott told the crowd.
But the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed overwhelmingly last year by Washington lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Many now say they had no idea it would produce such skyrocketing rates for homeowners.
See Also: Senator says flood insurance bill blocked by politics
And other speakers at Tuesday's news conference urged citizens to keep up the pressure on both Democrats and Republicans. "We need to yell, scream and do whatever is necessary," said Rep. Dwight Dudley (R-St. Petersburg).
There may be a perception that the flood insurance hikes are hitting only the wealthy owners of waterfront properties, but maps show that thousands of inland homes are also affected, as well as modest homes near the beach like George Shaeffer's.
"It's a very nice little house, but it's not a real mansion," says Shaeffer from his living room.
For 17 years Shaffer has enjoyed his house in Reddington Beach, but now the 62-year-old would like to be closer to family, so he's fixing to sell. However, the $16,000 insurance bill facing any new buyer with a mortgage is a huge stumbling block.
And if Schaffer can't sell, even the gradually rising rates he'd pay could eventually force him into foreclosure.
"That's just hopeless," he says of the unsubsidized full rate. "I'll have to give it back to the bank... the thought kills me."
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce also hosted a day-long questions and answer session for consumers, with insurance experts on hand. More information and answers to Frequently Asked Questions are also available on the chamber's website.
Wondering if you're in a high risk flood zone? Look up your area on one of the maps provided by Bay Area counties:
Don't see your county? CLICK to search your address on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) official Map Service Center.
Once you find the map for your area, use FEMA's "Definitions of FEMA Flood Zone Designations" to better understand what it's showing.
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