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Homeowners face flood insurance crisis in Pinellas Co. | News

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Homeowners face flood insurance crisis in Pinellas Co.
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Treasure Island, Florida -- More homeowners are finding out that new, expensive flood insurance may apply to homes that are not close to the coast. 

Last spring Colin and Joyce Elston fell in love with and quickly purchased their dream home with the fitting address of Paradise Boulevard.

"It's a dream house; look outside-beautiful," says Colin, glancing out the window to blue waters.

But with the view, comes the need for flood insurance. New insurance rates are coming in October and the Elstons will go from paying $1,500 a year to more than $12,000. 

"We're going to lose the house," Colin says with a sigh. "Hopefully it won't come to that, but that's an absolute possibility."

And the Elstons aren't alone. A map created by the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office shows some 30,000 older homes in flood-prone areas that qualify for subsidies. And many of those homes are inland, including a big chunk in the Tyrone area.

See map: Single Family Homes in FEMA High Risk Flood Zones (PDF)

"This is affecting people in much more modestly priced homes and not always on the coast," says Property Appraiser Pam Dubov.

The hikes will hit unless lawmakers in Washington do something. Representative Kathy Castor (D-Florida) supported a measure that passed in the House to delay in the new FEMA rules. Members of a Senate committee on Wednesday also discussed the crisis.

See chart: Pinellas County Property Apparaiser in FEMA High Risk Flood Zones (PDF)

"We're not asking to ditch reform," said Castor in a phone call from Washington. "What we're asking for is some relief to phase these in and look at affordability."

As for the Elstons, they're losing sleep and shedding tears over Paradise lost. Joyce agrees, "Paradise turns to hell-yes."

Several community meetings on this issue have been scheduled to help educate homeowner:

Community Forum on Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012

  • Thursday, Sept. 197:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Indian Rocks Beach Commission Chambers, 1507 Bay Palm Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach

Flood Insurance Forum

  • Wednesday, Sept. 256:00 p.m. at the Digitorium of the University Partnership Building, St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus, 9200 113th Street North, Seminole

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