WILKES-BARRE — Some homeowners in Luzerne County are finding out that their flood insurance premiums have risen, in some cases even doubled.
The big change to the national flood insurance program that we told you about earlier this year has started.
A lot of federal flood subsidies have been eliminated because of government cutbacks.
We found homeowners who are already paying hundreds more.
The bed of Solomon Creek is bone dry along Regent Street in south Wilkes-Barre. But people who live nearby say it only takes one big storm or snow melt to create problems.
Donna Gilroy says she had to be rescued from her home back in 2006.
“That big bucket, me and my son had to sit in it. We took our clothes, sat on our clothes and went out. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again, but the flood gates seem to be working.”
Flood gates were built along Solomon Creek following several big floods, including one back in January of 1996, when Regent Street was submerged, leaving basements flooded. Many residents had to stay in emergency shelters.
Even with the added safety of the flood gates, mandatory federal flood insurance premiums are going up for many policy holders. That’s because Congress ordered the end of subsidies for the federal insurance program which is drowning in billions of dollars of debt.
“I negotiated with the bank just to cover my mortgage balance, instead of the whole structure of the house. So if anything would happen now, I would pretty much lose my home. They would just pay for the mortgage and I’d have to figure out how to rebuild.”
Jason Gittens says the old owner of the house he just bought was paying $2,100 a year for flood insurance. His basic policy now is $684. Gittens says he fears his policy could go up like his neighbor’s which just doubled to $1,000.
“It’s horrible. it Could really bankrupt somebody. And I’m hoping when I get my renewal next month, it doesn’t go up again because I don’t know what I would do myself.”
Insurance agents we talked with said the future is still uncertain because flood plains are being remapped across the county.
FEMA says many policy holders should expect increases around 20 percent next year.