This past Wednesday, a group of 50 Realtors® convened in Jupiter, Florida to learn about an issue that has received quite a bit of media attention due to the recent natural disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The main topic of conversation was the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and whether or not Congress is going to pass a long-term reauthorization of the program when it is set to expire on December 8th. On September 8th Congress passed a temporary 3-month extension to the program; a necessary action to prevent an estimated 40,000 property sales per month from not closing.
First to speak was Florida Realtors® President Maria Wells. Maria is Congressman Mast’s Key Contact, meaning that she has a personal relationship with the Congressman and she is the first person he reaches out to if he has any questions regarding the local real estate market. A former Chair of the NAR Insurance Committee, Maria is considered an expert on Flood Insurance. She informed members about the need for updated flood maps using LIDAR mapping technology and provided examples on how their clients would be affected if the NFIP is not reauthorized.
Maria then passed the microphone to the distinguished guest, Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18). Congressman Mast took a deeper dive into the process of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program and the politics at play in Washington, D.C. He explained the House of Representatives version of the reauthorization bill, titled the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, and how it compared to the Senate version of the bill. He noted that the House version of the bill would reauthorize the program for 5 years, include a gradual premium increase from 5% to 6.5% over 4 years, require homes valued over $1 million to purchase private flood insurance, and reform the “very difficult” claims process. He noted that the Senate version of the bill would reauthorize the program for 6 years, provide more funding for flood mitigation projects and focused on updating the current flood maps.
Attendees were most impressed with his knowledge of the NFIP. He explained how repetitive loss properties put a financial strain on the program, citing that 1% of properties in the program account for a one third of the total insurance claims. He noted that while the state of Florida accounts for roughly 35% (over 1.7 million) of all NFIP policies, it is also a “donor state”; meaning that it pays more in premiums than it receives in claim payouts. Congressman Mast then pivoted to talking about the need for comprehensive tax reform, even going so far to state that is one of the most important things on his to-do list. He expressed his concern that Congress will need to find a way to simplify the tax code while at the same time preserving popular tax deductions, like the mortgage interest deduction. Additionally, Congressman Mast applauded the over $24 million in funding Congress appropriated to research the harmful algal blooms in our intercoastal waterways.
The Realtors® of the Palm Beaches & Greater Fort Lauderdale would like to thank Congressman Brian Mast and Florida Realtors® President Maria Wells for taking the time to speak to our members. To learn about future town halls and events, visit our events page.