New flood insurance rates discussed

VIENNA – Changes in the National Flood Insurance Program and how it will affect residents in the city were discussed Thursday.

“If you live in the floodplain and have flood insurance, your rate will be going up here shortly,” said Robert Rush, Vienna building code officer. The cost increase depends on the property.

Rush said the reason for the increase is not through anything done by the city or state.

“There was an insurance reform act that was passed in 2012 called Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. It was passed by Congress and signed by the President,” he said.

“It expands the National Flood Insurance Program for another five years and there will be significant reform.”

Rush said as a result the emphasis will be on enforcement of the regulations. He said the higher rates are being added gradually but if a policy lapses and is renewed, the new rates will be in effect immediately.

“You will see changes in the rates,” he said. “If you have insurance currently do not let it lapse because it will be much higher.”

Rush said Vienna has many pre-form structures, meaning any house built before the city’s first floodplain maps came out in 1985.

“We recently went under new maps as of Nov. 6 and everything is official now,” he said. “Our new floodplain ordinance is in effect and the maps are in effect.”

Rush said changes include where a structure sits in relation to the base flood elevation and that was changed by the new maps.

Some properties in the city are lower than they were with the 1985 maps and others are higher, he said.

A driving factor is the financial condition of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Rush said.

“Basically what has driven this Biggert-Waters Act is FEMA is broke,” he said. “Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy broke them; they are bankrupt pretty much and they need money.”

Rush said that means the program has moved from subsidized rates to actuarial rates, meaning they look at the actual risk the person buying the insurance has for a flood on the property.

“They used to take a generic risk and applied it to everybody,” he said. “Now they look at your actual risk for flooding. If they see a house in flood way, it (the rate increase) will hit them harder.”

Rush said there are houses in Vienna that do not have a mortgage on them and the owner dropped the flood insurance or they have loans that do not require flood insurance.

There are areas in the city where flood insurance is not required, Rush said.