In July of 2012, several months before Superstorm Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act was quietly passed as part of a larger transportation bill. This legislation is now having devastating consequences for established and historic coastal communities across the United States. The bill calls for unprecedented National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premium increases unless homes are elevated above flood levels. Flood insurance premiums are set to increase drastically (in some cases from $600 up to $30,000 per home annually). Additionally, with the release of the new flood insurance maps (FIRMs) many homes that were previously not considered to be in flood zones fall into new flood zones, and will be required to carry flood insurance at full actuarial rates. This will have ruinous economic consequences for all families now required to carry flood insurance.
There are alternatives to the either/or of elevate or pay unreasonable premiums. These alternatives would enable families to keep their homes while at the same time help to bring the NFIP toward solvency. For several dense urban neighborhoods in the Northeast destroyed by Sandy, compliance with NFIP guidelines to lower premiums would be even more difficult as it is almost impossible to elevate attached historic masonry houses. However, as things stand, FEMA and the NFIP do not recognize any of these mitigation measures as sufficient. They are using a national standard devised for unattached frame homes and applying it to urban townhomes and brownstones and to homes that could not afford the cost of elevation, but might be able to mitigate to proportionally reduce their premiums.
After Superstorm Sandy, a team of New York city planners, engineers, and insurance experts under the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) put together a set of NFIP insurance initiatives which, unlike Biggert-Waters, make practical, economic, and preservationist sense. They have proposed ten initiatives (see below for details) that include credits for mitigation and resiliency measures such as wet flood-proofing the part of the building below the flood level, moving sensitive equipment and mechanicals out of harm’s way, allowing homeowners to select higher deductibles on their flood insurance, and many other feasible options. The SIRR team has also called for the creation of premium assistance measures to enable low-income families to afford flood insurance. If enacted, these measures would enable families to take steps toward mitigating flood damages and, ultimately, be able to keep their homes while also reducing the risk to themselves and to taxpayers.
Senators in other states are calling for corrections to the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reform act. Senators Landrieu and Vitter of Louisiana have written The Smart NFIP Act that delays premium increases and supports the innovation, creativity, and resilience of communities with better, more effective resources, rather than punish those who live in coastal areas.
We are homeowners recently flooded by Sandy asking for your support for both the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency insurance initiatives and The Smart NFIP act.
Please sign this petition to help families in coastal and river communities across the U.S. keep their homes, and not be forced out because of increased NFIP insurance premiums. At the same time, help FEMA and the NFIP become solvent, saving taxpayer dollars and preserving homes and communities in future storms.
We will forward this petition to National, State, and Local senators and congresspersons.
SIRR Plan Insurance Initiatives
Support Federal efforts to address affordability issues related to reform of the NFIP
Develop FEMA-endorsed flood protection standards and certifications for existing urban buildings
Call on FEMA to recognize mixed-use buildings as a distinct building category
Call on FEMA to develop mitigation credits for resiliency measures
Study approaches for New York City to join FEMA’s Community Rating System program
Call on FEMA to allow residential policyholders to select higher deductibles
Support the goals of the NYS 2100 Commission to protect New York State, consumers, and businesses
Call on New York State to improve policyholder awareness at the point of sale or renewal
Launch a consumer education campaign on flood insurance
Launch an engagement campaign targeting insurers