Source: Wikimedia Commons
One of the worst consequences of Superstorm Sandy is the inevitable rise of insurance rates which are expected to come on the heels of FEMA’s redrawing of the city’s flood zone lines. The new flood zone lines will force people to both buy expanded flood insurance and make expensive alterations to their homes to meet new regulations.
This mix of new insurance and home construction upgrades are incredibly costly. According to a press release, new legislation sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer hopes to protect homeowners already victimized by Sandy from burdening unneeded expenses.
The proposed legislation is known as the Strengthen, Modernize and Reform the National Flood Insurance Program Act (SMART). If enacted the legislation would delay rate increases by six months after FEMA’s affordability study is complete and allow for an extensive study on how these increased costs will impact communities.
“This legislation ensures that Congress will have the necessary time and data to make changes to National Flood Insurance Program before any premium increases go into effect, so communities aren’t overwhelmed and property values aren’t decimated,” said Schumer.
Here is a list of everything SMART act will do:
- Delay premium increases until 6 months after FEMA’s affordability study is submitted to Congress.
- Expedite FEMA’s affordability study. To expedite this, the legislation permits FEMA to use available funds outside of the National Flood Insurance Fund to complete the required study and makes a technical change to the affordability study to ensure the timely completion of the study.
- Allow properties currently receiving a subsidized rate to keep that rate when sold.
- Study voluntary community-based flood insurance options which could provide communities with the option to purchase blanket policies for all properties in their communities or a portion of their communities. This could allow for communities to offer more affordable insurance policies to their residents and provide greater incentives for community-wide migration activities.
- Eliminate penalties on communities for self-financing flood protection. FEMA’s AR and A99 flood-zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities in the process of flood protection projects. Currently, while flood expenditures on these activities can be fully counted toward community eligible calculations, there is a cap on the amount of state and local funds that may enter this calculation. Proactive communities who are sharing cost burdens with the federal government for flood protection should not be penalized for self-financing these projects. This bill will eliminate the 50% cap on state and local contributions to these projects.
- Federally funded new construction is currently prohibited in V-zones. In some situations, new construction should be permitted in the V-zone when relocation is impractical, provided the facilities are built to strict, established flood protection standards. These facilities will also be subject to a FEMA evacuation plan to promote the safety of the persons who occupy or access them.
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With the threat of climate change and redrawn flood zone lines leading to skyrocketing insurance rates, you’d think the only thing that is certain to rise along the Southern Brooklyn waterfront would be encroaching flood waters and not property taxes. Well, property taxes have been hiked for Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and other coastal areas like Coney Island and the Rockaways, according to a report by the New York Post.
The rise in property taxes comes as a cruel blow to homeowners who have already shelled out thousands on home-repair following Sandy. According to the Post, the news of the tax hikes doesn’t sit well with local residents:
“This is totally insensitive and heartless,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which has received more than 30 complaints from residents about the hikes.
“We just sustained one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history, and now the city is delusional, claiming our property values went up.”
Zalcman said that since Sandy, he has spent roughly $100,000 repairing the basement of his Dover Street oceanfront home, for which he pays more than $7,000 a year in property taxes.
According to Zalcman, the rise in assessed property values do not match market realities. While his home was assessed to be worth an additional $79,000, pushing it over the $2 million mark, he claims he’d be lucky to get $1.5 million should he decide to sell.
Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was also vexed over the increase in property taxes for storm ravaged homeowners. She has vowed to hold an emergency oversight hearing on February 26 to address the issue.
“It raises real doubts about whether [the Finance Department] is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments …” Quinn told the Post. “As New Yorkers work to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice.”
There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding why property taxes have gone up in the worst hit regions. City officials told the Post that the property assessments were made before the storm, despite the city’s website claiming they were made on January 5.
Mayor Bloomberg insisted that the rise in beach-front property value represented the overall national trend:
“Prices continue to go up in spite of these things,” he said.
But many local real estate brokers say property values in Big Apple neighborhoods affected by Sandy — such as Manhattan Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island — have fallen due to storm damage and prospective buyers now leery of living in high-risk hurricane evacuation zones.
Have you been hit with higher property taxes? Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who along with Councilman Michael Nelson and many other local pols has spoken out against the hikes, included in a recent e-mail blast information on how to file appeals on increased rates and how to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief Program. Relevant details from Cymbrowitz’s press release are listed below.
Property owners who oppose the hikes have until March 15 to appeal to the city Tax Commission before rates are finalized in May. To print a copy of the form you need, click here.
You also have until this Friday, February 15, to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief program. (The deadline was originally February 1st but was extended.) Download the necessary Property Damage Reporting Application form here.
My office also has hard copies of both forms that we can send you. Feel free to call us at (718) 743-4078, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by and visit us at my temporary district office located at 2658 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenues W and X) and we’ll be happy to help you with this or any other issue. We’re open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Fridays until 5 p.m.
Original image courtesy of nytimes.com
If you are a homeowner in Gerritsen Beach you can probably expect your insurance bills to rise when the city, in concert with federal officials, push the flood zone lines further inland, according to a report by the New York Post.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of properties not in the flood zone before and find themselves in now,” Don Griffin, a vice president at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told the Post.
These areas include the aforementioned Gerritsen Beach, East Williamsburg and parts of Lower Manhattan.
The redrawing of the flood zone lines further inland will yield several consequences for homeowners. People who have mortgages with federally-charted banks will be forced to purchase flood insurance. The closer a homeowner is to the water, the higher the cost they will have to pay in flood insurance.
Those looking to build in a flood zone will also have to meet the stringent height requirements set by FEMA.
“Every foot below the flood plain adds to the cost,” Griffin explained.
The flood zones were last officially expanded in 1983.