Washington, DC – As the Senate gets ready to vote tonight to begin debate on a bill to delay flood insurance premiums, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced an amendment to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which will help New York City and other 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 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. “This is a step forward towards relieving the large financial burden that our property owners and their families face.”
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, a bill 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.