2014-05-09 / Top Stories

Request For Proposals Re: Flood Insurance Issues

Following vulnerability exposed by Hurricane Sandy, and in the aftermath of last week’s flooding, the de Blasio administration announced that it is launching two key studies, as well as a consumer education campaign, to better understand and communicate the impact that rising flood insurance costs and an expanded floodplain will have on New Yorkers, and to help FEMA keep flood insurance affordable. This proactive step complements significant ongoing investments across the city in flood protection measures.

On Friday May 2, the administration released a Request For Proposal (RFP) to run the consumer education campaign; additionally, RFPs to conduct affordability studies for multifamily and 1-4 family homes will be released.

According to the de Blasio press release, New Yorkers face increased flood insurance premiums for two major reasons:

In July 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12), which required changes to FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that eliminated certain subsidies, resulting in significant rate changes. While the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act – which the city advocated for and President Obama signed into law in March – will mitigate some of the immediate impacts of BW-12, owners will still face lower property values as potential buyers take into account insurance costs. Homeowners will also see annual increases between 15 and 18 percent as all policies move toward eventually paying FEMA’s newly assessed higher rates.

In December 2013, FEMA released Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for New York City. While these maps likely won’t be finalized until 2016, the Preliminary FIRMs show an expanded floodplain that nearly doubles the number of impacted structures from 36,000 to 68,000. Homes with federally-backed mortgages will be required to purchase flood insurance when the FIRMs are finalized.

For a home newly mapped into the floodplain, a $500 annual premium could easily rise over time to $5,000 or even $10,000 for the same amount of coverage. This increase in flood insurance premiums directly impacts neighborhood stability and housing affordability, especially for working and middle class New Yorkers. The impact will hit especially hard for the 20 percent of households in the floodplain that are living at or below the federal poverty line.

The announcement complements major ongoing investments by the city and its partners to start the process of protecting its 520 miles of coastline, including:

Beach replenishment and dune construction, with more than 1.2 million cubic yards of sand added to Coney Island, Staten Island, and the Rockaways in the past year, and another 2.9 million cubic yards to be placed in the Rockaways in 2014;

Improving drainage of low-lying neighborhoods by investing in the city’s Bluebelt natural storm water management system in Staten Island and Queens; and,

Improving storm sewers; for example, the first of five planned sewer projects in Coney Island is under construction, and six storm sewer projects have advanced in Brooklyn near Fresh Creek. Furthermore, the city recently announced funding for $100 million in roadway and drainage upgrades in low-lying areas of the East Shore of Staten Island.

These are just a few examples of the progress outlined in the April 2014 PlaNYC Progress Report, which details the city’s resiliency and sustainability efforts, and is available at: www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/downloads/ pdf/140422_ PlaNYCPReport_ FINAL_ Web.pdf

“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the city’s 520 miles of coastline face significant increases in their flood insurance rates – especially at a time when many can least afford it. Yet again and again, we see the impact of flooding on our communities,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Through these studies, the city will work to ensure that FEMA’s flood insurance program remains available and affordable for all New Yorkers.”

The three RFPs that are being released by the city, through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), are: Consumer Education on Flood Risk, Maps, and Insurance (RFP released May 2): The campaign aims to educate residents (especially those newly mapped into the floodplain) on exposure to flood risk, insurance policy coverage, and resources available for assistance.

The competitive RFP seeks a consultant to run an educational campaign outlining these risks, changes to the flood map, and resulting impacts to residents;

Affordability Study on Multifamily Flood Insurance (RFP released May 6): The study will assess the impacts of flood insurance on mixed use and multifamily buildings, which represent a significant portion of the city’s housing stock and reflect the unique urban challenges the city faces in addressing flood insurance requirements.

The competitive RFP seeks a consultant to: 1) design a sampling approach to study buildings across a mix of types and attributes; 2) conduct a survey to get coverage, take-up, and premium data; and 3) engage with the insurance industry to get data on coverage to supplement the survey; and,

Affordability Study on 1-4 Family Flood Insurance (RFP released on May 12):

The study will build upon prior city work to assess the impacts of flood insurance on 1-4 family homes. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of insurance for these homes, yet only 55 percent in the current FEMA floodplain have flood insurance, and among those with federally-backed mortgages who are required to get flood insurance, only 65 percent do.

The competitive RFP seeks a consultant to collect and analyze critical missing data (like address-level elevation), assess the economic impact of increased insurance rates on individuals and atrisk neighborhoods, and assess options to reduce risk for 1-4 family homes.

“The risk of skyrocketing insurance rates is the dark cloud that still plagues our community,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “Instead of waiting for the federal government to act, we must take a proactive approach and create a system that is sustainable and will provide the coverage and protection that our families need. I commend Mayor de Blasio for taking the initiative to ensure that all homeowners are not flooded by increased insurance premiums during their continued recovery.”

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