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March 30, 2014

Indiana braces for flood insurance subsidy changes

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Indiana homeowners who live in flood-prone neighborhoods are bracing for insurance premium increases, despite Congress’ latest fix for the government’s debt-saddled flood insurance program.

More than 13,300 Indiana homeowners can expect annual increases of up to 18 percent in their flood insurance premiums in the years ahead, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data.

Another 3,200 owners of second homes and businesses will see annual increases of 25 percent.

A bipartisan measure signed March 21 by President Barack Obama offers relief to many people whose premiums soared thousands of dollars overnight under a 2012 overhaul of the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program.

But that relief isn’t permanent for all. Rates are still set to rise as officials try to rid the program of $24 billion in debt.

Among the Indiana residents affected by the legislation are Chris Buckley and her partner, Cindy Norman, who’ve lived for more than 20 years in Indianapolis’ Ravenswood neighborhood.

Their two-story home has a scenic view of the White River, lined with towering sycamore and oaks trees, and they have a small dock with two boats. But it comes with the burden of frequent flooding that periodically sends water sloshing up to their foundation — a situation to which they’ve become accustomed.

Buckley said their home’s annual premium had been about $3,100 but will increase to more than $3,500 this year and threaten their standard of living as it climbs higher in coming years.

“If I’d known the flood insurance was going to do this, I never would have bought this place,” Buckley said as she surveyed her backyard. “I’m 57 years old. I’ve been working for 40 years — all my life. I can’t get a better job. I can’t afford any more.”

Buckley said she and Norman, 55, have filed only one flood claim, in 2005, when heavy flooding damaged some of their home’s floor joists.

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