HALEIWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year Tim and Caterine Clearwater bought their dream home, a three-bedroom cottage close to the ocean.
"When we found this house we were very happy, and we could not believe it was ours when we finally got the keys," Caterine Clearwater said.
The Clearwater's annual flood insurance bill was $2,700. Their new annual premium has soared to $23,000. When they did the math, the couple was floored.
"We wanted to get rid of our house. We did not want to stay in the house anymore. We were stressed out and very depressed," she said.
Stories like the Clearwater's are happening everywhere to homeowners and business owners. Flood insurance rates across the nation are rising as Congress revamps the National Flood Insurance Program. In Hawaii, 43,000 policy holders are being affected.
"Coastal is obviously the greater risk and that's where the rates are the highest. But we see them along river main situations. We have them in low-lying areas and areas that have poor drainage," state NFIP coordinator Carol Tyau-Beam said.
FEMA is basing the new insurance rates on new flood maps. In Hawaii, properties hit hardest by premium spikes are on the north shores of the islands. The Clearwater's house is in Haleiwa.
"It's in the flood zone VE, which is the worst of flood zones, and according to FEMA it could be flooding 16 feet in the future," Caterine said.
The Clearwaters now plan to elevate their home to be above the flood baseline. That would lower their insurance premium to a much more affordable $1,600 a year. But the pay out for construction costs will be $50,000 to $60,000. The couple is thinking long-term.
"In the future we would be able to sell the house to a person, and they would not have to pay that flood insurance," she said.
But for now that flood insurance bill is hanging over their heads and their home sweet home.