NYC Flood Zone Properties’ Value Rose to $129B Under New FEMA Maps

October 29, 2014

The assessed value of properties in New York City that lie within Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) newly proposed 100-year floodplain maps is $129 billion, more than double the value under previous floodplain maps, according to a new analysis.

The analysis was published today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

Stringer’s analysis showed that under the 2010 floodplain maps, the value of buildings inside the 100-year flood zones was approximately $58.6 billion. Under the newly proposed 100-year flood zones, the value of buildings more than doubles to $129.1 billion, with three and a half times as many structures in high-risk zones and a nearly 200 percent increase in value in Brooklyn.

Stringer also offered a series of recommendations to better protect homeowners from the effects of flooding on their homes and their insurance premiums. “This new data demonstrates clearly the need for New York to invest in resiliency projects to protect those in the flood zone,” said Stringer.

“These investments should benefit not only the safety of those in high-risk flood zones, but also potentially lower their insurance premiums,” he said. “We need FEMA to be responsive to regional investments in the physical environment to ensure that when resiliency work is completed by cities or states, those efforts are reflected in rates area homeowners will pay.”

To better protect New York City’s physical and fiscal well-being against future weather events, Stringer recommends the following steps:

• Accelerate the pace of investment in resiliency projects and shoreline improvement, which will allow the city to transform its physical footprint to better withstand the threat posed by future storms.

With the immense value of properties along New York City’s coastal areas, it is necessary to make investments to protect homes, businesses and neighborhoods from the future effects of climate change, said Stringer. Investment in resiliency has a multiplier effect: for every dollar spent on resiliency and disaster mitigation there are four dollars in potential savings.

While New York City has spent billions on delivering a resilient recovery for affected citizens, the city has been slow to dispense dedicated HUD money for coastal protection and building mitigation measures. In this category of CDBG funding, only $57,000 of an allotted $284 million for dedicated resiliency projects has been spent as of last quarter, he said.

• Call on FEMA to expedite review of risks and premiums after the completion of large-scale resiliency work. Public investment should reduce premiums.

Flood insurance can be purchased through the private market or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by FEMA but often sold and serviced by private insurance companies. The expansion of the 100-year flood zones, along with recent legislative changes, means that mandatory insurance rates will potentially spike for thousands of New Yorkers, said Stringer.

According to the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, rates may rise as much as 18 percent per year for similar levels of home coverage, an enormous hardship for thousands of New Yorkers in affected areas, many of whom earn less than 60 percent of the New York City area median Income.

While some property owners have taken steps, such as physically raising their properties, to help reduce their exposure to flooding, large-scale resiliency projects should also have the potential to lower insurance rates.

However, FEMA is not obligated to update its premiums in real-time, meaning that large-scale changes may not be reflected in FEMA maps and insurance rates for decades, said Stringer. He said FEMA should be required to regularly review the efficiency of implemented resiliency measures on a regional basis.

• Utilize scientific research on flood risk and climate change to better inform municipal decisions and New York City’s capital plan.

Because New York City usually self-insures against flooding or other disaster related damages, the city will be obligated to carry hundreds of thousands of dollars in hazard insurance on buildings that received federal assistance following Superstorm Sandy. Stringer recommended that the city mitigate the exposure of its assets to climate change by requiring agencies to account for climate risk in the planning and siting of future capital projects.

“The impact of Superstorm Sandy is still felt acutely across our city’s 578 miles of shoreline. The accelerating effects of climate change mean that planning, preparation and investment are critical to our city’s physical and financial well being,” said Stringer.

“Before the next storm arrives, the city must make every effort to safeguard property, as well as the lives and well-being of our citizens, against the increased reach of floodwaters.”

(2010 structure count: NYC Department of City Planning Building was spatially joined to 2010 and 2014 FIRM shapefiles, provided by FEMA. The data includes all public and private structures. Chart courtesy of Office of the New York City Comptroller)

Topics New York Flood Climate Change

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