Info on deciding to raise your house after Hurricane Sandy

Recent public forums have helped answer questions about repairing and rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

The question-and-answer sessions typically feature local residents, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives and representatives of the local insurance and real estate industries.

Even the panelists usually acknowledged a fair amount of uncertainty about the full ramifications of the unprecedented level of damage for the region and the process for rebuilding and recovering costs.

Here’s our best shot at summarizing the considerations for property owners as they rebuild after the Oct. 29 storm. But because of the considerable amount of confusion surrounding the whole process, feel free to share information, questions and observations in the comments section of this story.

Find the elevation of your home.
Find the elevation required for your home under the new FEMA flood map. Search for your Advisory Base Flood Elevation by address.
See how your advisory elevation compares to Hurricane Sandy flood levels. Make sure the flood elevation on your certificate uses the same NAVD 1988 scale as the ABFE maps (or see how the scales compare).
What if your home remains below the required elevation? One thing appears certain: Your flood insurance premium will increase (because federal taxpayers will no longer subsidize the flood insurance program).
The following are projected National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) annual flood insurance premiums for V Zone properties with $250,000 residential building coverage:

Lowest Floor Elevation
No Contents Contents
3 Feet Above $2,403 $2,923
2 Feet Above $3,278 $4,048
1 Feet Above $4,728 $5,918
At BFE $6,803 $8,603
1 Foot Below $9,003 $11,583
2 Feet Below $12,074 $15,764
3 Feet Below $15,524 $20,474
4 Feet Below $17,334 $23,304
6 Feet Below $23,449 $32,019
The following are projected annual flood insurance premiums for A Zone properties with $250,000 residential building coverage:

Lowest Floor Elevation
3 Feet Above $376 $561
2 Feet Above $448 $633
1 Feet Above $660 $845
At BFE $1,359 $1,724
1 Foot Below $4,527 $5,255
2 Feet Below $5,924 $8,308
3 Feet Below $7,204 $10,554
4 Feet Below $9,551 $14,370
6 Feet Below $18,830 $28,535
Consider the resale value of homes that remain below base flood elevation. Buyers would potentially assume dramatically higher flood insurance premiums or the cost of elevating homes.
What resources are available to elevate homes? Flood insurance policy holders should be able to take advantage of “Increased Cost of Compliance” (ICC) funding that can pay up to $30,000 to elevate homes. In a much longer process, property owners also can apply for hazard mitigation grants. Interested owners must contact the city’s Emergency Management Department, which will submit a letter to the county by Feb. 8 (the city currently has a list of about 100 owners). The county will apply to the state, which will apply to the federal government. Also: Low-interest loans (1.68 percent) of up to $200,000 (for homeowners) and $2 million (for businesses) are available through the Small Business Administration.
Will the Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps change? According to Gov. Chris Christie’s executive order on Thursday (Jan. 24), the advisory maps are adopted and nobody is “grandfathered” for the purposes of flood insurance or building codes. The final maps are expected to be complete by late summer and will likely include lower elevations and smaller “V Zones” as mitigating factors are taken into consideration. An appeals process will also be in effect when the final maps are released. Challenges from shore municipalities and from lawsuits are likely in the works.

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