In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate overwhelming passed a bill to delay dramatic increases in premiums paid by some property owners covered by federal flood insurance programs.
The Senate vote was 72 to 22. The bill goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.
Under the bill, called the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3370), premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) could increase no more than 18 percent for primary residences. The bill rolls back previous reforms passed just two years ago with the Biggert-Waters Act and most importantly, a contentious planned rate hike.
Recent homebuyers hit by the higher rates will get refunds, and those affected by revised flood zone maps will not face bigger premiums. Annual premium increases will be capped at 18 percent per property annually.
The impact is especially significant in coastal states like Florida and Louisiana.
Critics of the measure say taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for the financially troubled insurance program. Premiums under the program have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the program is $24 billion in debt.
Supporters of the bill, however, said the premium increases were making it impossible for many people to keep their homes or sell them.