Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast not long after legislators passed a five-year extension to the National Flood Insurance Program.

The program, which offers federal insurance subsidies for homes in flood-prone areas, was passed with several reforms that force higher premiums on certain types of properties built in flood-prone areas.

With the insurance fund already $18 to $19 billion in the red, Josh Saks, legislative director with the National Wildlife Federation and a member of SmarterSafer.org, said recent reforms lifted premium rates on certain at-risk properties, including secondary and vacation homes.

"It's in debt in part because of severe storms, and it has never charged the rates it needs to stay financially viable," Saks told HousingWire of the program. "The reforms move the properties towards actuarial rates (or rates based on potential future losses)," Saks explained.

Still, Saks said a coalition of groups pushing for flood insurance reform desire higher rates on insured properties to cover future short falls in the fund.

As for Hurricane Sandy, impacted homes were built too long ago to be affected by the reforms. Still, he said newly constructed properties could definitely feel the effects of the changes.

SmarterSafer, while successful in getting NFIP extended for five years, would like to see longer-term reforms such as federal efforts to use natural barriers to slow storms and higher insurance rates that encourage safer building.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com