Note: This is the second part of a series of blog posts that will examine the impact of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on New York City’s coastal neighborhoods, which are home to many low-to-middle income homeowners. In this series, we will examine how the Center and our partners are working together to confront this challenge.

As discussed in the previous post in this series, major changes to the National Flood Insurance Program present a serious challenge to the long-term affordability and sustainability of New York City’s coastal communities. Because New York City’s coastal homes tend to be older and thus were built before the adoption of modern floodplain management building standards, changes to how flood insurance rates are calculated mean that some of these homeowners could eventually see their flood insurance premiums rise by as much as $10,000 per year over their current premiums.

Recognizing that these changes threaten the ability of low-, moderate-, and middle-income homeowners to pay their mortgages, the Center has been working on a number of fronts to confront this challenge. This includes bringing community groups and key government stakeholders together through collaborative groups such as the Flood Insurance Working Group.

The Center serves as an informal co-chair for the Flood Insurance Working Group, which was created by HUD and FEMA as part of the larger Sandy housing recovery effort. We held our first meeting in early 2014 with a number of groups, including government officials, housing counseling and legal services providers, and other community-based organizations. At this meeting, we quickly realized that our shared top priority was to inform homeowners in flood-prone neighborhoods about how changes to flood insurance in New York City will impact them.

The drive to provide information to homeowners is particularly timely because New Yorkers whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy are currently making key decisions about rebuilding. As they make these decisions, which generally require a substantial investment from their savings or from rebuild programs like Build it Back, they will need information about how their rebuilding decisions will affect future flood insurance rates.

For example, homeowners need to know the consequences of rebuilding basements as living space. Having a basement that is used for living space can significantly increase flood insurance premiums and potentially cost thousands more in flood insurance payments each year. On the other hand, having a basement that is used for storage, access, and parking will result in much smaller rate increases.

Additionally, some homeowners may wish to consider elevating their homes. This will make their property more resistant to flood damage in the future, while lowering their future flood insurance payments. We will explore home elevation and the need for elevation financing in a future post in this series.

Today, by bringing together local practitioners, as well as national flood insurance experts, the Flood Insurance Working Group has begun to create valuable tools for homeowners struggling to understand how they are affected. For example, our partner Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City has created one-pagers with information about basement restoration for homeowners, case managers, and contractors. Additionally, the Center has begun creating an informational website about flood insurance, which incorporates significant input from members of the working group.

In the next blog posts in this series, we will write more about our forthcoming flood insurance website, as well as our advocacy for an elevation fund to assist homeowners in financing the elevation of their homes.