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Help for homeowners: Bill would aid in getting cheaper flood insurance

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Coney Island’s councilman has introduced a bill to make it easier for lower-income property owners in high-risk flood zones citywide to get cheaper flood insurance.

The bill would help home and business owners more affordably protect their properties from more intense floods and hurricanes brought about by climate change, Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) told this paper, claiming that his office found that 80 percent of homeowners who are required to buy flood insurance are overpaying.

“As we rightfully focus on the impact of resiliency and climate change and more frequent storms, we do also have to take into account affordability, and it’s very concerning when we learn that the majority of homeowners who already have flood insurance are overpaying,” Treyger said. “[The bill] is a win-win for homeowners who are still recovering from the worst storm in history as well as the increased risk that climate change poses to our community.”

Treyger’s bill would make the elevation certificates free for building owners in high-risk flood zones whose income does not exceed 115 percent of the area median income for households in the city, which is $87,860 for a two-family home and $109,710 for a family of four, according to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires property owners in high-risk flood zones — known as “special flood hazard areas,” which have a 1 percent or greater risk of flooding in any given year — to obtain an elevation certificate to prove their buildings are properly raised before they can buy the mandatory flood insurance required by Congress.

The certificates can save homeowners thousands of dollars on flood insurance over time by helping them secure the lowest possible premiums for their properties, but the purchase of the certificate itself can be anywhere from $800–$1,000, according to the city, making Treyger’s bill a potential boon to low- and moderate-income homeowners in flood zones.

Much of Coney Island lies in a special flood hazard area, according to the federal agency’s website, although many Coney Islanders and other residents of Treyger’s district already receive free certificates thanks to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, and the Neighborhood Housing Service — through a program which Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) pushed to expand throughout the southern portion of the borough last year.

But much of the waterfront in Dumbo, Downtown, Red Hook, and Sunset Park is also considered a high-risk zone, according to the federal agency. Plus, the Feds are again re-drawing flood maps, Treyger said, meaning even more New Yorkers could find themselves in nabes considered “special flood hazard areas,” causing their flood insurance premiums to shoot up.

The bill would become go into effect 120 days after becoming law, and Treyger said he would leave it to the city to determine which agency would preside over providing trhe certificates, not ruling out Build It Back.

Treyger said the bill supports Mayor DeBlasio’s long-stated goal of closing the city’s affordability gap and addressing the dangers posed by climate change.

“I believe that this bill aligns with the mayor’s message of addressing the affordability crisis in the city, and he has acknowledged time and time again of the increased risk of climate change and frequency of these storms,” Treyger said. “Judging by his own words and past initiatives, this should be a no-brainer, common sense piece of legislation to protect the most vulnerable residents of the city of New York.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 3:54 pm, February 15, 2018
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Reader feedback

Laura McKenna from Brooklyn says:
NHS Brooklyn, a nonprofit housing organization cited in this article, offers free educational workshops and one-on-one counseling (NO sales) in Sheepshead Bay and Canarsie to help property owners understand their homeowner's and flood insurance policies, so they are not under-insured or overcharged. Please visit https://www.nhsbrooklyn.org/upcoming-events for the schedule of upcoming workshops or contact us at 718-469-4679. We also present to groups.
Feb. 20, 10:55 am

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