By John Lynds
The City of Boston Community Engagements Director for Environment, Energy and Open Space Lauren Zingarelli appeared at a recent Charlestown Neighborhood Council community meeting to announce Boston will host a citywide meeting on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps that go into effect on March 16, 2016.
The Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) and city officials will host a community open house on January 12, 2016 to assist people with navigating the FEMA flood maps and to help answer any questions. The meeting will be held at the Boston Teachers Union Hall – 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, from 4 to to 7 p.m.
There was much anxiety for residents in Charlestown when FEMA’s came out with their new maps for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) two years ago. With most of the neighborhoods being surrounded by water meant more homes and businesses would have to pay higher premiums for insurance under the new maps.
Boston adopted the maps so property owners can qualify to purchase and maintain federally subsidized flood insurance through the NFIP. The city is also eligible to receive federal disaster assistance in the case of a flood emergency by adopting the maps.
However, even with some layer of federal protection for owners, Rep. Dan Ryan and the House immediately got to work on a bill that was then signed by then Gov. Deval Patrick before leaving office to provide further protection from the potential rising cost in flood insurance.
Ryan and other elected officials here lobbied hard for the flood insurance protection bill, saying the new flood zone maps could lead to significant increases in flood insurance premiums for coastal property owners with NFIP policies and will likely require some property owners to purchase flood insurance for the first time.
The bill that was signed by Patrick allows home and business owners to purchase flood insurance based on the balance of their mortgage rather than having to pay unaffordable premiums.
The bill bans lenders for requiring property owners here and across the state from requiring more flood insurance than what is left on any particular loan. Tying the amount of coverage to the outstanding balance rather than the replacement value of the home will lower premiums for those impacted by the change. Creditors are also banned from including a deductible of less than $5,000 and requiring coverage for contents of the home.
For example if a home is appraised at $300,000 but there in only $100,000 left on the note the home or business would only need to purchase $100,000 worth of coverage.
The bill was first proposed in tandem with then Attorney General Martha Coakley in response to the federally-mandated flood insurance hikes.
The bill also requires banks to provide a notice to homeowners explaining that coverage tied to the current mortgage will only protect that amount. They must do this before the individual pays for federally-mandated flood insurance. Homeowners still have the option of purchasing a greater amount of insurance.
However, city officials urge residents and business owners to attend the January meeting and also contact insurance providers directly to find out how properties will be affected by FEMA’s new flood maps.