Federal law takes homes to new heights

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In addition, there are no longer subsidized rates for newly purchased property, property where flood insurance was deliberately allowed to lapse, property that has experienced repetitive loss, businesses, non-primary residences, substantially damaged property and property that has been at least 30 percent improved.

What does all of this mean for local residents?

Resident who live in either the A or V zones — which cover virtually the entire South Shore of Long Island, including Oceanside and Island Park, will need flood insurance. Banks will require it. Should there be another flood, those without flood insurance will get no help from federal agencies such as FEMA.

Under the law, building elevation in the A Zone is measured at the top of the lowest floor in the home. Elevation is the V Zone is measured at the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member.

If, for example, the curb in front of your home is four feet above sea level, then your living area, including your utilities, should be seven or eight feet above that. The only way to be sure is to have a surveyor with a knowledge of your community come and study your home.

The law requires that a home’s living area, as well as utilities such as water heaters, boilers and electrical service boxes, be several feet above what the law calls “mean high tide,” but is usually referred to as “sea level.” This means that basement bedrooms and offices will not be covered by flood insurance.

The government subsidies that reduced the cost of flood insurance ended with Biggert-Waters. For some, that means that insurance that now costs up to $3,000 a year will cost nearly $10,000 five years from now, as the incremental raises under the law take place.

Only one small portion of the 63-page act speaks to affordability. Under the law, FEMA is mandated to study the affordability of raising homes above the required level. The law says that FEMA has to “establish an affordability framework” for the required insurance, including targeted assistance, if necessary.

On April 4, FEMA promulgated guidelines under Biggert Waters for all the homes impacted by Sandy.

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