NEW ORLEANS -- We're one month away from the start of hurricane season, and once again we're approaching an end to the National Flood Insurance Program.
The program is set to expire at the end of May, and local real estate experts are starting to worry because Congress hasn't acted to renew it yet this year.
“What’s frustrating is this is a constant source of irritation for perspective homeowners and it is very difficult on our market, on our agents, and on our buyers and sellers,” said Louisiana Realtors Vice President Joe Ory.
Just two years ago Congress allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to expire four times in one year, including during hurricane season.
“The statistic was nationally over a thousand people a day couldn't buy a home for the inability to get flood insurance,” Ory recalls.
With area lenders requiring flood insurance, when people can't buy it, home sales end up in limbo. “It so strongly affects Louisiana and particularly New Orleans. We're in a great revitalization period and it's just unconscionable that these kinds of things slow up the process,” said Ory.
Louisiana's Congressional representatives are pushing for a five-year renewal of the program instead of the current six-month renewals. When Congress misses those renewal deadlines the Gulf Coast is left especially vulnerable.
U.S. Senator David Vitter pleaded to Senate leaders last week, "It's particularly important in my home state of Louisiana where the risks of flooding, coastal and otherwise, are even greater than the national average."
Senator Vitter says Majority Leader Harry Reid still hasn't agreed to bring up a five-year extension even though 41 senators signed a bipartisan letter in February pleading to Reid.
"I just come to urge all of us and in particular the majority leader who sets the schedule to schedule this, to find that time, to put it in line as soon as possible," Vitter stressed.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu believes there is a 60 percent chance congress will pass a five-year extension this year, but with no action yet and several other items on the senate schedule there is a chance the program could lapse again this year.
“I hope not, I hope not, Landrieu said. “I don't think so, I think we'll go to a longer-term extension if we can, and if not we'll push the program for another year. But we really do need a long-term extension and we'll be working on it when we get back.”
We left a message with Majority Leader Reid’s staff asking if he’ll make an effort to renew the program this month. We haven’t yet received a response.