Local Officials Urge Residents to Oppose Flood Insurance Rate Hikes

The proposed National Flood Insurance Program rate hikes have many New Jersey residents concerned they will no longer be able to afford their homes. The 2012 Biggert-Waters flood insurance reform law could lead to annual flood insurance premiums of up to $31,000 a year if homeowners don’t raise their homes to comply with updated flood maps. Raising a home can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and homeowners in flood zones who have mortgages are normally required to carry flood insurance. This is leaving many New Jersey residents in a difficult position, unable to afford to remodel their homes or pay the proposed increased premiums.

Township officials in North Middletown met last week to encourage residents to contact their state and federal representatives to voice concern about upcoming flood insurance rate increases. The officials warned homeowners they could be facing premium increases up to 100 percent if they don’t raise their homes, despite the homes not flooding during Superstorm Sandy. Committeeman Anthony Fiore railed against the program during the meeting, calling the program “a national Ponzi scheme” and the rate increases “ridiculous.” Fiore said he could understand rate increases for homes that suffered flood damage, but opposed the premium increases for 1,400 North Middletown homeowners who saw no rising water during Sandy or Hurricane Irene because of the town’s flood control systems.

Although the residents may not have seen rising water, the FEMA decertified the flood systems in 2009, leading to a higher flood map elevation for North Middletown homes. Nevertheless, the Township officials have been contacting state officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, and Congressman Frank Pallone to push for changes to the Biggert-Waters legislation. The Township would like to pass a resolution proposing a flood insurance rate freeze for properties not affected by Sandy, allow private carriers to compete with the national program, and encourage state action to block the legislation from going into effect. The resolution would be circulated to other municipalities in New Jersey, as well as New York and Mississippi, and other affected areas. Fiores anticipates the resolution should be drafted within the next two weeks.