New flood legislation will help Bridge City
The city of Bridge City recently received some good news- some really good news.
Mayor Kirk Roccaforte said federal legislation passed through amending the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 will give relief to residents of the city on flood insurance rates by reinstating the grandfather clause and subsidies.
“The Pre-FIRM (prior building) elevation needs to be at least eight feet in base flood elevation. If it’s nine or 10 feet, the homesteads will get better rates,” Roccaforte said. “Most of Bridge City is over the eight feet elevation mark. It stays with the property, however, not with the person.”
The Biggert-Waters Act enacted the actual rates per property, he said. For instance, some properties escalated 400 percent, from $1,200 a year to $8,000 a year.
“Property values would have plummeted,” Roccaforte said.
He cited his son’s property as an example. He has a nine foot elevation, but it went from $700 a year to $4,800 a year.
FEMA came out with new floodplain maps for the city at the end of last year. The new rate maps have been appealed and most of the city has been taken out as a most preferred area.
“Eighty percent was not in the flood zone (under the old map). Now, 80 percent of the city is in the flood zone,” he said.
The city has also hired an engineering firm out of Cameron, La. who has been successful in the past in revising rate maps. The appeal from the city was made December 24, 2013. FEMA signified in February they received the appeal.
Roccaforte said, however, it may be May 2015 until FEMA will act on the maps.
“A coalition was formed in the bay area of Houston. It’s been a great thing,” he said.
Roccaforte added the National Flood Insurance Program affects many cities along waterways nationwide.
Bridge City officials would make conference calls to coalition members every Friday and even a contingent was sent to Washington, D.C. The new legislation gave relief from destroying property values.
“We’re hoping the maps will get more relief. The legislation is still unclear. It will become more clear as we move on,” Roccaforte said. “Anybody already charged should be given a refund. It’s an ongoing thing. It’s definitely a relief.”
On March 2 l of 2014 President Barack Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 into law, according to a press release. This law repeals and amends certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968.
Today, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is providing a bulletin to its private Write Your Own insurance company partners on steps that are underway to begin implementation of the new legislation and provide relief to qualifying policyholders who received rate increases under Biggert-Waters.
This action begins to implement the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) first priority to stop policy increases for certain subsidized policyholders as outlined in the Act.
Specifically, the bulletin provides guidance to Write Your Own insurance companies on how to adjust rates for certain Pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (Pre-FIRM) properties as described b Section 3 of the Act.
Pre-FIRM properties are properties that typically were built before detailed flood maps were developed with a community. Prior to implementation of Biggert-Waters, Pre-FIRM properties were insured using subsidized rates that assist people in affording flood insurance even though their buildings were not built to present standards.
Effective May 1, the NFIP Direct Servicing Agent and Write Your Own companies will begin to adjust rates for all new applications for Pre-FIRM properties by using the rate tables issued effective October 1, 2013.
Policyholders who meet the following requirements will se their rates restored to Pre-FIRM subsidized rates, unless the full-risk rate is more favorable, when they purchase or renew their policy:
• Pre-FIRM properties that were not insured on July 6, 2012
• Pre-FIRM properties that were sold on or after July 6, 2012
• Pre-FIRM properties that were rated full-risk under Biggert-Waters due to a lapse in policy coverage
The use of the October 2013 rate tables are an interim step while FEMA develops new rate tables and guidance to process and issue refunds for policyholders who were charged full-risk premiums under Biggert-Waters and are now eligible for Pre-FIRM subsidies.
“Before the legislation, it was killing our home sales. Our real estate market was in limbo because we didn’t know if it could be avoided,” Roccaforte said.