Congress Passes Bill To Ease Flood Insurance Hikes

Congress is sending President Barack Obama a bill to ease big flood insurance premium increases faced by hundreds of thousands of homeowners and allow below-market rates to be passed on to people buying homes with taxpayer-subsidized policies.

The measure breezed through the Senate and on to Obama's desk Thursday on a 72-22 vote. The House passed it last week.

The bill would place an 18% limit on most flood insurance premium increases. It eliminates some provisions of a bill passed in 2012 that led to large increases.

Senators said the bill provides relief for all homeowners, not just those living in flood zones.

Senator Mary Landrieu said, "I'm happy today to tell you that common sense and affordability won. This program is essential for not only communities along the coast, but interior states."

The legislation significantly rewrites a major overhaul of the flood insurance program passed two years ago. The 2012 changes were aimed at weaning hundreds of thousands of homeowners off of subsidized rates and required extensive updating of flood maps used to set premiums.

But its implementation has stirred anxiety among many homeowners along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in flood plains, many of whom are threatened with unaffordable rate increases.

The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama.