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River towns hit hard by rising flood rates in Pa.

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
69 News & Associated Press, (follow: @69news), news@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 24 2014 05:28:33 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 24 2014 04:36:35 PM CDT

More than 34,000 homeowners and businesses in Pennsylvania will see their flood insurance rates rise as the federal government tries to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

While a tidal wave of higher flood insurance rates may not be coming, many policy holders aren't off the hook.

President Obama signed a bill Friday that avoided the high rate hikes many were expecting, but the impact is already being felt.

More than 34,000 homeowners and businesses in Pennsylvania will see their flood insurance rates rise as the federal government tries to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program.

An analysis by The Associated Press finds that there are 57 cities and towns where at least 100 homes or businesses are facing some sort of price hike.

Those with the most are Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Bristol, Johnstown, Jersey Shore and Wilkes-Barre.

"This is one of the most beautiful rivers in America," Art Taylor, of Riegelsville, Bucks Co, said of the Delaware River.

But after 12 years of living next to the Delaware, he and his wife, Anne, are looking to downsize. The competition, however, isn't the only thing they're keeping an eye on while trying to sell their home.

Their eyes are also on the flood insurance rates a new homeowner can expect to pay, rates that could easily sink their sale.

"Going to hurt obviously, and it's going to hurt the homeowner most of all," said Ron Bodden, a Realtor.

More than a million homeowners with government-backed flood insurance policies are going to be hit with a rising tide of rate hikes. The rates are expected to 18 percent to 25 percent per year.

The fear at a public hearing in Harrisburg in January was that homeowners wouldn't be able to take the hit or sell their home and could easily fall into foreclosure.

"We have so many people in Pennsylvania on fixed incomes and don't have several thousand dollars set aside to account for those premiums," said Aron Carter, of Penns Wood Bancorp, a commercial bank.

The rise in rates is to cover a $24 billion shortfall in the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program, created by a series of catastrophic storms.

The rate hike will last until the deficit is covered, and no one is sure how long that will be. 

As their home goes up for sale, the Taylors said they are buoyed by optimism, at least for now.

"I think if someone really loves this house and loves this area, they'll say that's the way it is," Ann Taylor said.