Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her concerns recently regarding the new flood maps with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recently at a Senate Banking Subcommittee on Economic Policy meeting. The Massachusetts senator urged her colleagues in Congress to delay the new flood insurance rates for one year in order to help homeowners hit with a new expense.
The update has led to many homeowners having an additional expense much to their chagrin. Some homeowners have seen increases in their flood insurance premium while others have been told that they need to carry flood insurance for the first time.
Last year FEMA updated their flood maps for the Pioneer Valley, which were finalized for Hampden County on July 16, according to the FEMA Map Information Exchange. The map exchange told me that there was no indication that Hampshire County and Franklin County had its flood maps updated. FEMA continues to roll out new updated maps.
The reason for the updated maps was part of the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012.
While the senator said that she understands that flood insurance rates should reflect actual risks and costs of flood damage, and that the flood maps should reflect the best science data available; she also said that the sudden manner in which the changes have been implemented have put thousands of Massachusetts homeowners in a tight spot financially.
“Many of these homeowners are dealing with new and unexpected costs, many have no good options available to them,” said Senator Warren. “One Massachusetts resident wrote to me and said, ‘I’m 70 years old, I live on a fixed income, and I’m unable to pay the proposed flood insurance.’ That constituent and many others have said they don’t know what to do.”
When Warren asked how homeowners were notified of the changes to the flood maps that would require new home owners to carry flood insurance who previously were not in flood zones, Fugate explained that the process works with city and town officials. Then preliminary maps are put together and provided to those officials who send out public notices, which Fugate acknowledged aren’t usually noticed by the public. He said that there are also public hearings where new information could be provided by those who wish to appeal the new maps.
Fugate added that local governments need to vote to make the maps official and enforceable.
Warren said that one of her constituents told her that appealing the preliminary flood maps could cost a homeowner more than $1,000 to pay for engineer to conduct things such as elevation studies.
Earlier this month, homeowners in coastal communities in eastern Massachusetts turned out in droves to protest the new maps.
If you are planning on buying or selling a home in the Pioneer Valley, make your first call to Michael Seward at 413-531-7129.