Campbell wants public hearing to take up car insurance rates

City Council President Andrea Campbell is calling for a public hearing to help figure out why Boston residents - especially those who live in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Hyde Park - pay so much more for car insurance.

In her formal request for a hearing, Campbell says Bostonians already pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, and that people in areas with high concentrations of minority and low-income residents pay even more than other Boston residents, even if they have excellent driving records.

“It’s a serious economic hardship,” especially because many of those areas overlap with areas poorly served by public transportation, she said at a City Council meeting last Wednesday.

She said that average for premiums for experienced drivers in Roxbury is 204 percent of the statewide average, while Dorchester is at 188 percent and Hyde Park 153 percent.

In addition to calling in state insurance officials and representatives of insurance companies, Campbell said she wants any hearing to be a forum where residents can discuss the impact of high rates on them.

City Councillor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) agreed that something seems to be out of whack. He said he pays $4,500 a year to insure his family’s three cars in Readville, even though the newest is now six years old, and that’s just unfair when people just over the line in Dedham pay $1,700 for comparable coverage.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley (Jamaica Plain, Roslindale) chimed in with a personal anecdote about his father’s house, which in the 1950s was deemed to be West Roxbury, then was given a Roslindale zip code, before getting switched back to West Roxbury in 2007. During the Roslindale interregnum, he recalled, his father was able to get a substantial discount on his insurance by showing up at a broker’s office with his deed, which showed the house was in “West Roxbury,” even though it had a Roslindale Zip code.

“That’s absurd and it shows how deeply flawed the system is,” he said, adding he hopes that, in addition to looking at high rates in certain neighborhoods, the council also consider the issue of Boston residents who registered their cars on the Cape or in New Hampshire to try to beat the system - which he said unfairly burdens Bostonians who play by the rules.

Councillor Michael Flaherty rose to support the hearing request.

“I just wanted to be the first to say ‘Three-Car Tim,” the councillor, whom some had dubbed “Five-Car” Flaherty earlier this year after he vociferously objected to a proposal for fees for neighborhood parking permits, said before asking to have his name added to probe why Dorchester, Roxbury residents pay so much more for car insurance.