22 Aug 2014
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Before You Raise Your House, Read This

On Dec. 10, FEMA will announce new standards for flood elevations.

Before You Raise Your House, Read This Before You Raise Your House, Read This

By a show of hands at a recent town hall meeting, more than 100 people in Oceanport are considering raising their homes that were flooded in superstorm Sandy.

Some have already met with contractors to do the work and gotten estimates. One resident said he is scheduled to raise his home on Monday.

If you are one of those homeowners weighing the decision, there are some questions you should ask first.

How high is high enough?

Mayor Michael Mahon told residents on Thursday that homes that were raised after the 1992 storm did not get water inside their living spaces.

Mahon said that's because, "Our ordinance is stricter than other communities."

Even then, Sandy's surge surpassed that previous 100-year storm mark by about 2 feet. And many of those raised homes still saw flooding in their garages, crawl spaces and suffered damage to electrical and cooling systems.

In light of that, and the sheer number of homes flooded, 747 out of less than 2,100, Mahon said, Oceanport may revisit its elevation requirements.

For now the borough is looking forward to Dec. 10 when he said, FEMA will announce the new advisory base flood elevation.

"It's important that that number be known if we are elevating our homes."

What's the going rate for a house raiser?

When OEM Director Buzz Baldanza surveyed residents at the Oceanport town hall meeting he found no one who had gotten an estimate of $25,000- $30,000. The majority of the audience said they were quoted in the neighborhood of $35,000.

But one resident said his estimate came in at $85,000.

"That is price gouging and you need to notify the police," Baldanza said.

But determining the difference between price gouging and an expensive job can be tough since raising a home comes with variables. Homes that are built on a slab are much more expensive to raise than one with a crawl space.

That's true for Gooseneck resident Terry Barth. His ranch, which was completely flooded, is 150 feet long, built on a slab and includes many angles as it sits in a crescent shape. One house raiser told Barth he didn't even want to do the job. Another quoted him at $118,000.

On Monday Barth planned to meet with Wolfe House Builders and Movers who are raising his neighbor's home, to get another quote. That's just the advice that Baldanza and National Flood Insurance Plan reps gave Oceanport residents last week.

For any storm related service, they said:

  • Get more than one estimate.
  • Take those estimates back to your insurance agent and ask, "Is this a reasonable cost," because if it's not, the insurance company may not pay for it.

How am I going to pay for this?

There are a few channels through which the money might flow, but it will all come from the same source, the National Flood Insurance Program, which underwrites most flood insurance agencies.

(In order to participate in the NFIP, a community must agree to adopt and enforce sound floodplain management regulations and ordinances. In exchange for these practices, FEMA makes flood insurance available to homeowners, business owners and renters in these communities.)

You might see a check from your insurance company. You might see a check from the borough. What you need to know is if your home was flooded, Oceanport borough is applying for money on your behalf.

Here's how:

The borough estimates the cost to rebuild Oceanport at $367 million, plus untold losses in emotional currency. In the interest of preventing future losses, the town has hired a grant consultant, Millennium Strategies, to win grants available as a result of the disaster and others available annually through the state and FEMA.

If Oceanport secures these grants it will have money to pay for homes to be raised, demolished, fortified or moved. This would also pay for moving or raising borough hall. (Money comes from FEMA to the state, then to the borough, then to the homeowner).

"Depending on the program, a resident will have several options open to them," Baldanza told Patch. "The HMPG, FMA, SRL and RFC programs are the ones that would be available." See the attached PDF for more info about individual aspects of the grants.

This may help families whose flood insurance is not enough to cover the costs of those preventative measures (or who don't have flood insurance). Homeowners who go ahead with their home raising in the near future could see those costs reimbursed, but it's not guaranteed. Oceanport and flood officials cautioned residents not to raise until after the grant process closes. No word yet on when, but signs point to a long haul.

What is ICC and does it apply to me?

There might also be help for you above what your flood insurance company gives you if your home is damaged 50.1 percent, which puts it in the substantially damaged category.

This a determination the borough makes and when it does it could entitle you up to an additional $30,000 under what the government calls Increased Cost Compliance or ICC, meaning the cost required to bring your home up to floodplain standards required by law.

According to the NFIP, "ICC coverage is in addition to the coverage you receive to repair flood damages; however, the total payout on a policy may not exceed $250,000 for residential buildings and $500,000 for non-residential buildings."

So if you had $200,000 worth of damage to your home which was deemed substantially damaged, then you could get $30k to raise it, demolish or move it. You can read more about it here.

To get this substantial damage designation you need a letter from the town's engineer Bill White of Maser Consulting, which you will submit to your insurance company.

What happens if I already require the maximum payout of $250,000, but it's not enough?

"Flood insurance was not created to make you whole," said Christopher Toney of NIFP. "They just want to pay the policy limit."

But if your policy limit won't cover the cost to get your house raised out of the flood plain (or to have it demolished) you might still be eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant that the town's consultant is working toward.

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