Federal law takes homes to new heights

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The federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force announced that all Sandy-related rebuilding projects funded by the supplemental spending bill must meet a single uniform flood risk reduction standard. The federal standard, which is being aligned with many state and local standards already in place, takes into account the increased risk the region faces from extreme weather events, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change, and applies to the rebuilding of structures that were substantially damaged and will be repaired or rebuilt with federal funding.

The new standard will require residential, commercial or infrastructure projects that are applying for federal funding to account for increased flood risk resulting from a variety of factors by elevating or otherwise flood-proofing to one foot above the elevation recommended by the most recent available federal flood guidance.

“Communities across the region are taking steps to address the risks posed by climate change, and the federal government needs to be a partner in that effort by setting a single clear standard for how federal funds will be used in rebuilding,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who also chairs the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. “Providing this guaranteed minimum level of protection will help us safeguard our investment and, more importantly, will help communities ensure they are better able to withstand future storms.”

The specific steps that storm-damaged structures will need to take include:

• Elevating. The standard would require structures to elevate their bottom floor one foot higher than the most recent flood risk guidance provided by FEMA; and/or

• Flood-proofing. In situations where elevation is not possible, the standard will require structures to prepare for flooding a foot higher than the most recent flood risk guidance provided by FEMA — for example, by relocating or sealing boilers or other utilities located below the standard elevation.

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