Flooding can happen unexpectedly and cause long-lasting damage quickly. Luckily, there are a multitude of measures you can take to mitigate your home. They vary in complexity and cost. The good news is that many of your options are relatively low cost and efficient, especially when you compare the cost of the mitigation measure to the cost of recovery and repair.
Suggestions to get your started
- Get flood insurance. Flood insurance isn’t usually the first thing homeowners think about when they consider mitigation. Even so, it’s an important financial tool that you can use to protect your home.
- Regularly clean out your gutters. Gutters, downspouts, and drains often get clogged with debris. When this happens, water can pool along your foundations and exacerbate flooding conditions. Gutter maintenance is relatively low-cost and can save you a lot of money in the long-run.
- Elevate your home. Elevating your home is one of the most effective flood mitigation actions you can take. Depending on your situation, it can be a costly undertaking. However, it will likely have a large impact on both your flood risk and your associated flood insurance costs. To get a sense of scale, consider this information from Rebuild New Jersey: Depending on the size of the house, the location, and the current structure and foundation, the cost that an NJ house raising contractor will charge to raise your home will be in the range of $12,000 – 30,000. However, the actual house jacking and resetting is only one component of the all-in price for house lifting. The full turn-key price will be in the $40,000 – $150,000 range for most homes along the Jersey Shore. At the lower end of that range is a simple beach cottage. At the higher end is a trickier job to lift a 3-story house on the water or in a tight location, as an example.
- Seal low-level brick or concrete walls. Sealing low-level brick or concrete can help to keep water out of your home during less intense flood events. Like cleaning your gutters, it’s relatively affordable.
- Install flood vents. Flood vents are openings installed on the lowest levels of your home. They allow water to pass through spaces like garages or basements so that, in flood events, water pressure does not build up and threaten the structural integrity of your walls. Flood vents are sometimes required for new construction, depending on whether or not your property has an enclosure that is below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Even if you aren’t required to, you should consider installing them.
If you live in Ocean City and are considering a mitigation project, there might be funding to help you out. Here are possible funding sources for flood protection projects:
FEMA grants: Most of the FEMA programs provide 75 percent of the cost of a project. In most communities, the 25 percent non-FEMA share is paid by the benefitting property owner. Each program has different Congressional authorization and slightly different rules.
- The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP): The HMGP provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. Projects must provide a long-term solution to a problem (e.g., elevation of a home to reduce the risk of flood damages as opposed to buying sandbags and pumps to fight the flood). Examples of eligible projects include acquisition and elevation, as well as local drainage projects.
- The Severe Repetitive Loss Program (SRL): The Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) grant program funds mitigation projects for properties on the severe repetitive loss list. Eligible flood mitigation projects include: acquisition and demolition or relocation of structures that are listed on FEMA's severe repetitive loss list and conversion of the property to open space; and elevation of existing SRL structures to at least the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). There is a new SRL ICC Program that can be used to cover the non-FEMA share of the cost. That program is discussed further in bullet C below.
Flood Mitigation Assistance Program (FMA): FMA funds assist states and communities in implementing measures that reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of flood damage to structures insured under the NFIP. Project grants to implement measures to reduce flood losses, such as elevation, acquisition, or relocation of NFIP-insured structures. States are encouraged to prioritize FMA funds for applications that include repetitive loss properties; these include structures with 2 or more losses each with a claim of at least $1,000 within any ten-year period since 1978.
Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM): The Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program provides funds to states, territories, Indian tribal governments, communities, and universities for hazard mitigation planning and the implementation of mitigation projects prior to a disaster event. There is a special funding provision in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for insured buildings that have been substantially damaged by a flood: "Increased Cost of Compliance." ICC coverage pays for the cost to comply with floodplain management regulations after a flood if the building has been declared substantially damaged. ICC will pay up to $30,000 to help cover elevation, relocation, demolition, and (for nonresidential buildings) floodproofing. It can also be used to help pay the 25% owner's share of a FEMA funded mitigation project.
The building's flood insurance policy must have been in effect during the flood. This payment is in addition to the damage claim payment that would be made under the regular policy coverage, as long as the total claim does not exceed $250,000. Claims must be accompanied by a substantial or repetitive damage determination made by the local floodplain administrator. For more information, contact your insurance agent or visit: www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/ floodplain/ICC.shtm.
Coverage under the ICC does have limitations: It covers only damage caused by a flood, as opposed to wind or fire damage The building's flood insurance policy must have been in effect during the flood ICC payments are limited to $30,000 per structure Claims must be accompanied by a substantial or repetitive damage determination made by the local floodplain administrator and the structure must be in an A zone. The average claims payment in the study area is $16,511.58. With an average claim of that amount, it is not likely that many homes in the study area would sustain substantial damage from a flood event. Homeowners should make themselves aware of the approximate value of their homes, and in the case of incurring flood damage, be aware of the need for a substantial damage declaration in order to receive the ICC coverage.
Severe Repetitive Loss ICC Pilot Program: While the conventional ICC only covers buildings that are located in the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), there is a new pilot program that is aiming to target buildings not in the SFHA. Focusing specifically on Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) buildings, this pilot program will offer ICC benefits to those SRL properties that are located in X zones and will include those SRL buildings that have grandfathered X zone rates. Under this new pilot program, the ICC benefits could be used to cover the homeowner's 10 percent match in a SRL grant. Alternative language adopted into the local floodplain management ordinance would enable residents with shallower flooding to access ICC funding. Since local ordinances determine the threshold at which substantial damage and/or repetitive claims are reached, adopting language that would lower these thresholds would benefit the homeowners of repetitive loss properties. Adopting alternative language allows for cumulative damages to reach the threshold for federal mitigation resources more quickly, meaning that some of the properties in Ocean City that sustain minor damage regularly would qualify for mitigation assistance through ICC.
Rebates: A rebate is a grant in which the costs are shared by the homeowner and anothersource, such as the local government, usually given to a property owner after a project has been completed. Many communities favor it because the owner handles all the design details, contracting, and payment before the community makes a final commitment. The owner ensures that the project meets all of the program's criteria, has the project constructed, and then goes to the community for the rebate after the completed project passes inspection. Rebates are more successful where the cost of the project is relatively small, e.g., under $5,000, because the owner is more likely to be able to afford the bulk of the cost. The rebate acts more as an incentive, rather than as needed financial support.
Small Business Administration Mitigation Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers mitigation loans to SBA disaster loan applicants who have not yet closed on their disaster loan. Applicants who have already closed must demonstrate that the delay in application was beyond their control.For example, mitigation loans made following a flood can only be used for a measure to protect against future flooding, not a tornado. If the measure existed prior to the declared disaster, an SBA mitigation loan will cover the replacement cost. If the measure did not exist prior to the declared disaster the mitigation loan will only cover the cost of the measure if it is deemed absolutely necessary for repairing the property by a professional third party, such as an engineer.
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