City to ease rebuilding process for homeowners

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Building inspectors are taking a second look at damaged homes at the request of homeowners, Kemins said, but it is likely that homes with significant damage may have to be rebuilt, and those homeowners must consult with their insurance companies. “At the end of the day, there are probably going to be about 100 houses that have to be knocked down and rebuilt,” he said, “most of them in the West End and the Canals.”

Kemins added that while some high-rise buildings sustained serious damage — like Avalon Towers, at 10 W. Broadway — none have been condemned. “A lot of them are having elevator and heating issues,” he explained. “Pretty much all of them have electric back. We’re hoping by next week we’ll get the residents back in [to Avalon Towers].”

In order to facilitate the rebuilding process, the city announced on Tuesday that it intends to amend the code of ordinances so that homeowners will not have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals to apply for a 23-foot height variance to rebuild. “[It] will allow somebody to build a reasonable, FEMA-compliant house without needing to waste three or four months going to the zoning board,” Kemins said. “If this passes, which it should, it’s going to help people rebuild that much faster, and they’ll have new, FEMA-compliant houses that, in the future, won’t have the damage that they had.”

FEMA requires that the living space in any new home built in a flood zone begin at least eight feet above grade, or street level. The eight-foot base cannot be habitable or house things like boilers, heating equipment or washing machines. The new rules are intended to minimize flood losses in storms. “If you look at the new houses [in the West End] … they didn’t have that much damage,” Kemins said.

Because Long Beach is in a flood zone, he said anyone with a mortgage was required to have flood insurance.

“My flood insurance capped at $300,000, so if you have any extensive damage above that, FEMA will help you get loans — they’re very helpful,” Ungerson said, adding that her home was not as badly damaged as others. “But if your house has to be rebuilt, you’re going to pay far more than that. I’m hoping as soon as I have heat to come back [home], so I would think that if it had been condemned, I wouldn’t be talking to you from my den.”

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