“We’re seeing a lot of progress,” said Building Commissioner Scott Kemins. “It appears that money must be freeing up, because we’re getting a lot of permit applications for not only the repairs of homes, but for the demolition of homes and building new FEMA-compliant homes. I’ve seen things open up; more permits are coming in and we’re dealing with more architects. I think for the next 12 to 18 months, we’re going to be extremely busy dealing with this. For some, it could be ongoing for several years.”
A costly process
Denis Kelly, an attorney and a former city councilman, said that his firm is representing about 100 homeowners who are pursuing claims against their insurance companies.
“Flood insurance carriers are undervaluing the damage, and people don’t know how to address it,” Kelly said. “People who have been substantially damaged need to do some mitigation to their homes, and that’s become a significant problem. Take a home down in the West End: An adjuster comes in from the flood insurance company and says, we’ll offer you, say, $70,000 for the damage that they see. But now the city or FEMA come in and say you’re substantially damaged.”
Vordermeier said that he has hired a lawyer to fight his insurance company. “They’re overwhelmed with claims,” he said, “and they push you along to the point where you need to get legal help in order to get them to be more responsive.”
Many residents face the daunting task of obtaining the necessary funding to elevate their homes either through grants or Small Business Administration loans. Eligible homeowners who have flood insurance and whose homes were substantially damaged may be eligible for Increased Cost of Compliance coverage of up to $30,000 to pay for all or some of the costs of elevating their homes. Some whose homes did not sustain more than 50 percent damage are appealing their assessments in order to obtain funding through the ICC program.
“If your home was assessed, you can easily appeal the damage assessment in either direction by way of a contractor’s estimate, an architect’s or engineer’s estimate, or the settlement report from your flood insurance company,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said at the March 19 City Council meeting.