On Friday State Rep. Timothy Whelan and Congressman William Keating hosted “town hall” sessions in Dennis and Yarmouth to hear peoples concerns regarding flood issues. As Town Planner I participated in both these sessions. There was a message that we needed Congressman Keating to carry back to Washington, and I believe he heard us loud and clear.
A few of those issues included:
- Transparency. The flood insurance process is anything but transparent. The insured are forced to trust what comes out of a black box. If a potentially insured person goes to The Cost of Flooding and looks at the costs associated with four feet of water in a 2,000 sf home, they would find a potential for $74,580 in damages. This is split between structural ($43,370) and contents ($31,210). In Dennis, a home less than this size but approximately the the level of flooding, was quoted over $5,000 annually for the structural portion of their flood insurance (by their bank an issue addressed next). This homeowner would pay into the system the equivalent of their potential reimbursement in just nine years, for a 1% flooding risk.
- Bank placed insurance versus using a local insurer. Over the past few years I have learned that there seems to be little rhyme or reason to flood insurance costs. I have also learned that local insurers seem to be better positioned to fully understand a particular home’s situation and better prepare a flood insurance package for homeowners. The message for the Congressman, reduce the strength of banks in placing flood insurance.
- Common sense. The Congressman heard several stories over the course of the day about residents with anticipated flood waters no higher than one inch in the location of the house. In these cases there were basements present, but no physical means of water entering these homes. All cited insurance costs into the thousands of dollars. No connection between real risk – flood water either shifting a house off of its foundation, or entering a house and causing damage. We clearly need a better means of estimating the true risk of damage to a house before insurance costs are assessed.
- Return to allowing homes at the fringes of flooding (i.e. the homes with only a few inches of water near their foundations) to be eligible for Letters of Map Amendments based upon Fill when basements are present. In several of the cases presented on Friday, a truckload of new loan and a new front lawn would have been all it would take to elevate the homeowner’s yard above base flood elevation, not just at the foundation, but across the entire yard. This is an important issue, not just for these homeowners, but out of fairness. We have several properties in the new maps that appear as islands in the middle of the flood zones. These properties were recent construction, built on filled sites. If these properties can take advantage of fill, why not ones at the fringes of the flood zones?
Finally, there was one point I forgot to make in the sessions, it only came to me as I drove home. I totally forgot to raise the issue of seniors living on Cape Cod and taking advantage of Reverse Mortgages. I have had several come into my office concerned as they now have to acquire flood insurance and the costs will eat into most, if not all, of their programmed annual withdrawals from the value of their homes. Often, these are the people who can least afford flood insurance. I have since relayed this concern to both Representative Whelan and Congressman Keating.
The Dennis session was filmed for rebroadcast, as soon as it is available, I will post the link here on the blog so those who missed it will be able to watch.