FEMA’s Advisory Board Flood Elevation Info Puts Some Homeowners in Quandary

The State of New Jersey adopted Advisory Board Flood Elevation (ABFE) recommendations, with Governor Christie suggesting that the state’s municipalities do likewise. The ABFE will be the basis for the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), which determine the relative risk of flooding in each of the state’s coastal counties, and which establish where flood plan development regulations apply as well as who must buy flood insurance. It is the new Advisory Base Flood Elevations when adopted by FEMA which the FIRM will be based upon. Application of FIRMS is also a requirement for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is anticipated that the ABFE will not actually go into effect before the latter part of 2014.

Most affected communities have complied with the ABFE recommendations. But homeowners in communities that have not are now faced with a troublesome dilemma. If such homeowners rebuild according to current standards and then the ABFE is adopted at some later date, they will be subject to substantial flood insurance rates – rates anywhere from $3,500 to $31,000 per year depending the degree to which the property is above or below the flood maps. But at the same time, if these homeowners rebuild now, they are ineligible to receive Cost of Compliance (ICC) funding.

In short, many homeowners are feeling disenfranchised because they cannot rebuild according to the current code for fear of future insurance rate increases and they cannot obtain grants to raise their home until the ABFE is finally adopted.