FEMA Adds Buildings to 100-Year Flood Risk Maps, Plans to Audit Flood-Zone Properties
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) updated its flood-zone maps for New York City, it covered 84,596 structures in the five boroughs, up from 23,885 in the 2010 maps, according to a recent report by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. These newly analyzed flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs), which were proposed last year and are awaiting federal approval, could increase flood-insurance rates by as much as 18 percent per year for similar levels of coverage, the report says. And more increases could be coming since, the report adds, “The currently proposed maps, which are due to take effect in 2016, were initiated in 2010 and as a result do not even take into account flooding patterns observed during Superstorm Sandy.”
In addition, within the next six months, a FEMA team will conduct an extensive audit of the city’s flood zones to assess how well New York City is complying with the agency’s National Flood Insurance Program. The insurance program will eventually cover roughly 70,000 buildings with a federally backed mortgage in the newly expanded flood zone.
The FEMA representatives will pick a handful of areas and examine construction performed there within the past five years. The goal is to see how well the work measures up to the agency’s requirements to mitigate a building’s risk of flooding. The inspectors will also comb through the building permits, zoning laws, and variances that allowed that construction to take place.
The impending audit was initiated by a combination of factors. First, a visit is required for any community that participates in the flood insurance program—though New York City has never had one. FEMA also often visits the sites of large-scale national disasters to ensure the floodplain is being managed properly. In addition, an official in the New York City Department of Buildings last year requested the examination.
The reason for doing so is that the city is exploring whether it would like to be included in FEMA’s Community Rating System, a program that lowers premiums for municipalities that go above and beyond the minimum flood-mitigation requirements to lower risk, though no decisions have been made thus far. Although the Community Assistance Visit will focus on newer construction, it won’t address a looming problem for the majority of owners in the newly expanded floodplain: how to retrofit older buildings to comply with flood insurance regulations.