Highlands residents may find insurance increases so extreme that they will lose their homes, thanks to this piece of federal legislation called the Biggert Waters Act.
This piece of legislation signed into effect summer of 2012, not only affects Highlands, but anybody that lives close to the water nationwide. The Act proves so harmful, that David Vitter (R-LA), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), rarely U.S. Senatorial allies, teamed together to pass an amendment to the flood control legislation that would delay the increases for five years. It seemed ready to pass by bipartisan unanimous consent. Until Sen. Pat Toomy (R- PA)of Pennsylvania unilaterally blocked the amendment.
Toms River, NJ officials are following suit and want changes to U.S. legislation that will increase premium rates for the National Flood Insurance Program and remove grandfathering protection for older homes now placed in more stringent flood zones. Their Council members last week unanimously approved a resolution supporting the Louisiana senator’s proposed amendments to the Biggert-Waters Act.
The Toms River Council is asking to have Biggert-Waters changed in order to have grandfathering put back and allow some of the folks how have older homes to remain at that elevation. The resolution passed by Toms River council members will be forwarded to Gov. Chris Christie, Senators Menendez and, New Jersey legislators, FEMA administrators and Landrieu (LA.)
By eliminating the grandfathering clause, according to the resolution, means homeowners who constructed their homes in compliance with prior mapping guidelines (like those in Highlands who lifted their house to 12 ft) will be faced with astronomical flood insurance rate hikes because they are no longer in compliance with proposed FEMA regulations.
One issue of the new proposed FEMA maps is that they do not currently recognize protection offered by unaccredited (less than 100 year protection) levees, trees or other elements (e.g., pumps) at all. In this sense, they are less than holistic and incomplete.
The thought is for FEMA to work with local stakeholders to continue to develop and refine maps to accurately reflect flood risk in each affected community by taking into account non-accredited levees and other features that afford flood protection.
The other thought is that flood insurance must be affordable, accessible and self-sustainable. The Biggert-Waters Act only addressed self-sustainability at the sole cost of homeowners living around water, which could mean that no one will be able to afford to live by the water.
With Highlands, that would mean the residents out of the flood zone would be forced out as well because not all of them would be able to absorb the tax increase saddled on them from the lack of realized tax revenue from lower Highlands exodus.