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FEMA's Stormproofing Guidelines May Not Make Sense for NYC

The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy has led to rising insurance premiums and an expanded flood-zone map, effectively forcing homeowners and landlords in along New York City's waterfronts to comply with FEMA's flood-resiliency guidelines or pay a steep price. But, according to a report from Crain's, the FEMA guidelines might not even be feasible for the buildings that it would apply to in New York City, leaving homeowners with no good option.

Crain's estimates that complying with FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program would cost at least $5 billion, with the bulk of that burden placed on middle-class families, landlords of rent-stabilized buildings, and the New York State Housing Authority, "which owns more than a quarter of the rental units in the flood zone" and can't pay for anything. All buildings in the floodplain, large apartment towers included, would have to raise their lowest floors, eliminating an estimated 87,000 ground-floor apartments. Many of those are rent-stabilized, adding another layer of problems. And in the case of many single-family or two-family homes, the type of retrofitting that FEMA prescribes would be cost-prohibitive or practically impossible. To combat with these problems, the city and some nonprofit agencies are suggesting ways that FEMA could alter its requirements to make them apply to larger buildings, such as making them erect flood-barriers instead of doing away with the ground-floor. It's not clear yet what the federal agency will do, but they'll need to figure it out before 2017, when the insurance premiums start going up.
· Get ready for a $5 billion bill, NY [Crain's]
· Hurricane Sandy coverage [Curbed]
Photo by Stéphane Missier