The National Association of Realtors is using Hurricane Irene as a backdrop to push Congress to extend the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire Sept. 30. The hurricane warning became the first for the heavily populated New York City area since Gloria in 1985, a Category 2 storm. Hurricane Irene, also a Cateogry 2, poses the potential for extensive flooding in NYC, including the financial district in Manhattan. As much as 10 inches of rain is expected along parts of the East Coast. The threat along the very populated Eastern seaboard, with large cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., all at risk for flooding, underscores the importance of flood insurance — the only way for homeowners to financially protect their property or businesses from flood damages, NAR said Friday. Hurricane damage from water is only covered by flood insurance, which must be purchased separately through the National Flood Insurance Program. The real estate industry wants the program extended. "As the leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, NAR believes that the NFIP is essential to a properly functioning real estate market, ensuring access to affordable flood insurance for millions of homeowners," said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. NAR wants Congress to reauthorize the program for five years before it expires. It has been extended via short-term provisional fixes over the past several years. In July, the House passed HR1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, which would extend the program for five years, but the Senate has not yet considered the measure. "We strongly urge Congress to speed passage of legislation to reauthorize the NFIP for the long term and end the current stopgap approach that has already led to numerous extensions and lapses of program authority in the past two years," Phipps said. NAR also called on Congress to develop a proactive national policy to reduce natural disaster risk beyond floods, so that homeowners have access to affordable, comprehensive property insurance, and taxpayers no longer have to fund rebuilding efforts through federal disaster assistance. The American Land Title Association also is pressing for continuation of the NFIP. But at least one congresswoman is interested in scrapping the NFIP altogether. Rep. Candice Miller (D.-Mich.) unsuccessfully pushed an amendment to House Resolution 1309. She said the government should end the NFIP altogether since it's $19 billion in debt and a crutch that "encourages people to build in flood prone areas that repeatedly flood." HR 1309 comes with reforms of the program to improve its stability after it was battered by losses after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.