2017-02-10 / Community

Home Resiliency Audits Offer Facts, Hope and a Gameplan

By Joanie Wolkoff

The crisp, sunny morning of Saturday, Feb. 4 saw a flock of earlybird attendees gathered at the Rockaway Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) for a meeting held by Home Resiliency Audits, a limited state program providing eligible homeowners in select coastal communities with free home resiliency audits.

The initiative, funded through the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and NY Rising, also equips participants with a final report including flood insurance rate estimates and possible options to reduce those costs.

The comprehensive meetup was led by coordinating attorney for New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) storm response unit Aaron Scheinwald, and assisted by program associate Rachel Elmkies, a representative with the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) as well as Rockaway Waterfront Alliance’s outreach associate Judah Asimov.

Attendees helped themselves to coffee and continental breakfast fare before settling in for a session of no-nonsense strategy to identify and grapple with long-term issues around increasing flood insurance rates.

Scheinwald walked participants through a comprehensive overview of how rising sea levels – caused by climate change – mean that low and middle-income homeowners will need to make speedy and informed decisions about reducing their risk to future floods and skyrocketing flood insurance rates in the coming years.

When reminded that newly effective flood insurance rate maps (FIRM) are expected as early as 2019, and newly modeled guidelines for at-risk homes in special flood areas are predicted to substantially heighten insurance rates as subsidized rates draw to a close, attendees shook their heads.

Scheinwald catalogued an assortment of safeguards against spiking flood insurance premiums, including the filling in of subgrade areas, HVAC elevation, removal of moisture-wicking components like drywall, insulation and brick, and the (occasional) necessary evil of abandoning a home’s first floor which can then be repurposed for building access or parking.

“There’s a lot of burnout at this point,” Scheinwald sighed. “Many who are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy don’t want to deal with this anymore. We’ve spoken with about 1,200 clients in Rockaway, Arverne, Bayswater, Bensonhurst, Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Edgemere, Georgetown, Gravesend, Howard Beach, Lower Manhattan, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island and Red Hook over the past four years. There’s a good number of people still dealing with Build It Back who say they’ve got enough on their plates already. They don’t ever want to talk about floods again.

But, financially, risks are getting worse, Scheinwald explained.

“Your home’s base flood elevation or zone impacts the end point of your flood insurance owings, and while you could read FEMA’s entire Flood Insurance Manual- as exciting as it sounds-” Scheinwald chuckled, “those eligible for this program will be provided with free, feasible options and guidance to better understand the updated risks and potential future rates.”

The free services offered to those qualified for enrollment in the Home Resiliency Audits program are valued at over $1,800 and limited applications are now available at FloodHelpNY.org.

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