Residents are Urged to Get Educated on New FEMA Flood Maps

By John Lynds

With the new Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps set to go into effect next week on Wednesday, March 16, local Boston environmentalists have jumped into action to alert Charlestown homeowners of the upcoming deadline to purchase flood insurance.

If a home is in the new flood zone that home or business owner will be required by law to buy additional flood insurance–some for the first time.

While this may be bad news for homeowners already struggling with mortgage payments and rising bills, the good news is that if you purchase flood insurance before the new FEMA maps go into effect on March 16, you can establish your coverage at lower rates.

“The FEMA people call it being ‘grandfathered’.” said Kelly Rusch, AmeriCorps Community Engagement Coordinator. “But you need to place a policy on your home before March 16th.”

While FEMA policies allow for some processes to remove homes from the flood maps, NOAH staff urge residents to beware:

“The process of map amendment is arduous and expensive,” said Magdalena Ayed, a Boston environmental community organizer. “Basically, your house needs to be on stilts, with a completely filled in basement and no mechanical like boilers, furnaces and electrical in the basement, for it to be removed from the flood map.”

Rusch said Charlestown residents can call the FEMA Corps helpline at: 617-635-1190 to check whether their home is in the flood zone or not.

If you learn that your home is in the new flood zone, Ayed recommends that you call your insurance agent right away to get a flood policy that fits your needs.

“This is a very complicated system.” says Ayed. “And there is not a lot of clear information on it. Many people have heard that there is a 30 day wait period –and so they figure that they missed the deadline already. That is not true. The 30 day period is a delay before your flood insurance coverage takes effect.”

Ayed and Rusch, both of whom work on Neighborhood of Affordable Housing’s ClimateCARE program, have been organizing extensively to help residents prepare for climate impacts, stressed that homeowners need to understand that if they do not purchase flood insurance for themselves, as of March 17 their mortgage company will be required to purchase ‘lender placed’ flood insurance for them.

“And remember,” said Ayed, “the banks will not necessarily place policies that have the best terms for their customers. That is why you need to talk to your insurance agent.

According to city officials residents could potentially save as much as $1,000 on the first year of flood insurance if purchased early. The savings will likely fall by 25 percent each subsequent year, they said, but could total as much as $2,500 over the next 4 years.

“I know a lot of families that could put that money to good use,” said Ayed.

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