House and Senate clash over flood-insurance reform
Lawmakers are at odds over how to handle flood-insurance reform. The House of Representatives last week passed legislation modifying the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to allow private companies to enter the market, a move the Senate rejected shortly thereafter, HousingWire reported.
Proponents of the measure said flooding due to the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida highlights the need for more coverage options and lower-cost premiums than the NFIP offers. Some senators objected to attaching the measure to the Federal Aviation Administration's reauthorization bill, instead favoring a more comprehensive solution.
The NFIP's 90-day authorization extension expires Dec. 8. President Donald Trump reportedly gave Congress the additional time in order to address the program and to find a solution for its projected $1.4 billion budget overrun.
In Houston alone, more than one-quarter of the city's commercial real estate, valued at $55 billion, likely experienced flood damage from Hurricane Harvey, according to commercial real estate research firm CoStar Group. The extent of those repairs will peg massive rehab costs on owners and insurance companies in the coming months and years.
Florida faced its own set of troubles after Hurricane Irma swept the state last month, leaving considerable damage in its wake. That the storms occurred back-to-back put additional pressure on an already-critical shortage of insurance assessors. Several Florida-based assessors flocked to Houston in the days after Harvey hit, just two weeks before Irma made landfall in Florida.
Though repair and rebuilding efforts have begun in the South, many are wondering how efficiently and fairly insurance claims will be processed for the hundreds of thousands of people whose property was affected by the storms. Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, authorities found private insurers were underpaying on claims through the NFIP, raising flags as to the integrity of the program and those deploying it.
Others, particularly in Florida, worry the overload of repair and renovation work needed in the aftermath of the storms could open the door to nefarious contractors. These and other so-called storm chasers typically target consumers, but their presence can negatively impact the reputation of the building industry as a whole.
That has led to a push in states regularly affected by intense storms, including Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky, to consider voluntary licensing that would help honest contractors compete and consumers pick respectable companies.
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