Now it is Time to Pay the Piper

On March 8 the Star Ledger ran a front page story highlighting complaints about the FEMA flood maps and the need to either raise homes within the zones marked on the maps or pay very high flood insurance premiums. As noted, it appeared that no one was happy with the new requirements.

The new flood insurance rates can be in excess of $30,000 per year if the building is not raised. Raising a home in pilings can cost as much as $80,000.

Raised beach home on piling

I do not always agree with the way that FEMA draws its flood maps. Indeed, I have worked on projects where a property was placed in a flood zone and has not flooded in the worst storms that we have had in the last decade, including Hurricane Irene. However, this was an inland property.

It is important to remember that FEMA has an obligation to all tax payers. It is all taxpayers that subsidize those with homes on barrier islands and low coastal areas though the federal flood insurance program. Thus the new maps and the new insurance premiums and requirements are designed to save lives, protect property and shift the cost risk to those that benefit from living at the shore either part or full time.

The people that are complaining about the new maps have been subsidized by the entire country for years. It is not unreasonable to expect that they pay their share of the risk on a going forward basis.

This is harsh medicine to be sure. For those who have lost their primary homes, this is a tragedy on many levels. But we must all remember that when we make a decision to live in a dangerous area, it is our decision. We must bear the cost and not ask others to do so.

Some of the arguments raised made claim that the bay areas are safe. Just look at the results of the recent nor’easter that showed flooding of bay areas to put that argument to rest.

No, it is time to pay the piper. We are finally assessing some of the real costs associated with living in areas prone to flooding.

N.B. just one more note on the shore rebuilding. Avon by the Sea recently stated that they don’t care what anyone thinks and that they are going ahead and using the tropical hardwood Ipe rather than take a responsible approach to rebuilding the boardwalk like their neighboring towns Belmar and Spring Lake.

That is their choice. FEMA should reimburse $0.00 for this effort. If people who lost homes have to pay for their decisions, so should local governments that make ignorant decisions.


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