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Flood insurance rates could double for some homeowners in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Flood insurance coverage will now cost new homeowners almost double the current rate.

It's a change the federal government is making to keep the program sustainable.

There are a number of north side neighborhoods in La Crosse that fall in the flood plain. Now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has changed its policy, some in the community worry the higher rates will steer people away from buying a home in those areas.

The new, more expenseive FEMA flood insurance rates are aimed at making sure the program can continue.

"The pool they use for disaster recovery, every time there's a major disaster -- we see it in Long Island or New Orleans -- and there's just not enough money to go around," said La Crosse City Planning Department Director Larry Kirch.


Midwest Floodplain Solutions says currently, the average rate on a $100,000 mortgaged home is about $600.

That rate will stay the same unless the home is sold to a new owner, refinanced, or the policy is canceled, then the rate will double, to $1,200 a year.

City Council member Ryan Cornett said it could make attracting new home buyers to the area difficult.

"It can deter people, but it's not a major cost to owning a home and it's also an investment in your property," said Cornett.

"If you can buy a home on one side of the street that's in the flood plain and one on the other side of the street that's not, more than likely you'd buy the one outside of the floodplain," said Kirch.

Flood plain regulations also make it difficult to make improvements on a home.

"Major structural repairs are limited in what you can do," said Kirch.

"Let's say you have a slab in your back yard and you want to put a garage on it. You can't because it's in the flood plain and it's a variance of two or three feet, it has to be out of the flood plain, so you have to do a lot of work to get that done," said Cornett.

As flood insurance rates increase and the flood plain maps change, Kirch said the take-away message is to keep your flood-insurance coverage going.

"There are also policies that are lower cost. We never want to encourage people to drop their flood insurance even once they come out of the flood plain, they can get now a lower-risk policy," said Kirch.

Kirch encourages people to contact his department if they have questions about whether they fall in the flood plain.

He said it's also important to check with your insurance provider to see how and if these changes will impact you personally.

As of last year, the city planning department said there were more than 740 homes with flood insurance-coverage.

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