, Salem, MA

Local News

May 2, 2014

Homeowners call for answers from FEMA

NEWBURY — Priceless waterfront views are getting costly; to wit, flood-insurance rates are rising sharply and will continue to do so.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with state officials, hosted a public information session Tuesday night for property owners from around the North Shore. And the event at Newbury Elementary School was at an appropriate venue, because hundreds of homeowners who attended were trying to learn how much they must pay for flood insurance under new federal guidelines.

This was not the first time that those with dwellings near the water — ocean, river or marsh — have tried to learn more about rising insurance rates. But those who attended Tuesday’s session learned anew that insurance rates are going up now, and they could go up every year in the future.

“This is a tough problem,” said Joe Story, chairman of the Newbury Board of Selectmen, who attended the session. “These are federal guidelines, and many people are learning that they will have to pay much more for insurance in the future.”

FEMA officials arrived with about a half-dozen laptop computers, and residents sat with the federal representatives to view new flood plain maps and see how their properties have been affected.

Federal, state and local officials agree on at least one element related to higher rates: Each situation is different.

They said homeowners should meet with their insurance agents and determine how great the risk is on their parcel and how much must be paid.

Beyond that, homeowners were filled in by government officials and private insurance consultants on how circumstances are changing as a result of new federal regulations.

Changes in flood-insurance regulations were fostered by the federal Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012.

In the wake of destructive storms such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, lawmakers have declared that the federal government is not taking in enough to cover the cost of disasters. Biggert-Waters called for new FEMA flood maps that would put more properties into flood plains. This meant that higher rates for federal flood insurance could be charged. Subsidized insurance would diminish, if not disappear.

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