Federal law takes homes to new heights

Flood insurance reform complicates Sandy Recovery


Before Sandy there was Biggert-Waters.

And if you are having problems fixing up your storm-damaged home or in getting new flood insurance for the next 100-year storm, you can thank Judy Biggert and Maxine Waters.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the two representatives, Biggert, a Republican from Illinois, and Waters, a Democrat from California, sponsored the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama.

Both senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, voted in favor of the bill, as did Carolyn McCarthy, Peter King and the rest of the House’s New York delegation.

The Biggert-Waters Act essentially bailed out the National Flood Insurance Program, which was devastated by Katrina payouts. It reauthorized the flood insurance program through September 30, 2017, but it made some substantive changes from the previous program, including altering the way that premium rates for the insurance are calculated.

“It is critical that people repairing and rebuilding structures after storms understand these changes so they can make sound and informed decisions about whether or not they want to place additional resources in harm’s way, and so they can understand the financial implications of doing so,” a statement on the National Hazard Mitigation Association website reads. NHMA members — government officials and academics who study the mitigation of natural disasters — make recommendations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers NFIP.

Under the act, higher premiums are to be charged for buildings below the base flood elevation. There will no longer be premium discounts for properties that are below the BFE, even if they were up to code when they were built.

In the past, structures were allowed to keep their original flood-risk ratings even when conditions changed. Under the act, that is no longer the case.

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