Those of us living in flood-prone areas have been given some relief from immediate increases in insurance premiums with the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013. But this law is not a permanent solution.
While “grandfathering” of homes built to code under previous maps has been reinstated, new maps will still be put in place. While the annual increase in subsidized rates will be slowed, those rates will still go up over time. And, ultimately, the National Flood Insurance Program must be financially sound in the long run.
But while we are working to understand the impact on our own individual policies, coverage and cost, we must keep in mind the work that we also have to do at the community level. This is where we have leverage and where we must continue to work. Our community leaders have influence at the state and federal levels. They have the ability to influence community planning as well as future legislation.
One of the most important components of the National Flood Insurance Program is the Community Rating System, which provides the ability for a community to achieve premium reductions of up to 45 percent by ensuring compliance with building codes and other requirements in the program. It encourages and rewards community floodplain management with flood insurance premium rate discounts.
So, we as citizens of our communities must be involved and understand what we need to do to get those discounts.
We must become familiar with the program and understand the requirements. We must continue to educate others on flood insurance issues and costs.
We must focus on the impact of unaffordable flood insurance in working-class communities that support our industry.
We must put pressure on our community officials to put the issues on their agendas. We must look for mitigation options as a community and be proactive about mitigation projects.
We must investigate proposed mapping changes and push back where we can.
We must engage our neighbors in community planning, some of which may include making tough decisions like stricter building codes.
We must fight the potential loss of property values and the economic impact to our communities that can result from unaffordable premiums.
We must talk with and learn from communities in other states because they are facing the same issues we are.
We must contact our legislators and decision makers at the state and federal levels and impress upon them that flood insurance is not a coastal issue or an issue only for those who own vacation or beach homes.
We must support other communities across the state and country which will be working on their own issues.
No, the issue of costly flood insurance is not going to go away, but we now have lots of information to help our communities make good decisions about it.
We (the authors) are about to turn this topic over to you. Next week will be our last column, and we will do a little out-of-the-box thinking. Stay tuned.
Chris O’Shea Roper and Tom Linton are writing a series on the National Flood Insurance Program. Chris Roper is a freelance writer and Master Naturalist. Tom Linton is a retired professor and lecturer at Texas A&M at Galveston in Marine Sciences.