Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Bipartisan Flood Insurance Bill to Delay Rate Hikes Will Include her Amendment Protecting New York City Homeowners Whose Homes are Impossible to Elevate – Senate Vote on Final Passage Set for Tomorrow

Jan 29, 2014

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that her amendment to help thousands of New York City homeowners whose homes are impossible to elevate reduce their flood risk and lower flood insurance rates will be included in the bipartisan Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The U.S. Senate unanimously approved her amendment today to be part of the latest flood insurance legislation and is set to vote on final passage of the bill tomorrow. Gillibrand’s amendment would help New York City and urban homeowners of buildings such as brownstones, brick buildings, and multi-family homes that are physically impossible to elevate to reduce their flood risk and lower their flood insurance rates. Currently, the only way to reduce flood insurance premiums for homeowners living in flood-prone areas is to elevate their homes. But for thousands of New York homeowners who cannot elevate their properties due to its inherent structure, there are no federal guidelines in place to prevent a costly increase in their flood insurance rates. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would require FEMA to develop new guidance specifically tailored to help these property owners mitigate future flood disasters, lower their flood risk, and ultimately lead to reduced insurance costs.

“New York City homeowners hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy are worried about being priced out of their homes because they physically cannot elevate their property and reduce their insurance rates,” said Senator Gillibrand. “My amendment is simple and common sense – and it is aimed to help our city homeowners who will be stuck in a bureaucratic ditch that is impossible for them to climb out of due to the immovable reality of the building they live in. Providing a clear set of mitigation alternatives for these homeowners would prevent costly damage to their homes during the next storm or flood, and save money in potential disaster recovery costs in the long-term.”

New FEMA flood maps that have been proposed for much of New York City would require residents living in certain flood-risk zones to elevate their homes in order to avoid steep spike in their annual federal flood insurance premiums. The increase in flood insurance rates is tied to the home’s elevation above flood level. According to New York City estimates, out of the approximately 35,000 single and multi-family city homes that are projected to purchase flood insurance, thousands of those homes cannot be elevated. Many property owners in urban communities cannot physically elevate their homes and as a result, could face potential sky-high flood insurance rates. 

Senator Gillibrand authored an amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act to help provide relief for these urban homes that cannot be raised.  Her amendment requires FEMA to develop a set of guidelines by next year for homeowners to implement mitigation methods that are alternatives to elevation, such as flood-proofing or using different types of building materials that reduce flood risk, and provide homeowners with information on how those alternative methods will affect flood insurance premiums.  Senator Gillibrand’s amendment would also require FEMA to take the implementation of those methods into consideration when calculating flood insurance rates for homeowners.

Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand joined her colleagues urging Congress to pass the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act she has cosponsored to delay the most aggressive rate increases and fix major flaws in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law to make the National Flood Insurance Program affordable, accessible and self-sustainable. On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Senator Gillibrand took to the Senate floor pressing her colleagues to pass this bill and get relief into the hands of those who desperately need it.