Friday, April 21, 2006

Raise Me Up Before You Go Go

In response to FEMA's new elevation guidlines, the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans is opposing the measure.

The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans is criticizing a federal recommendation that badly damaged homes be raised at least 3 extra feet above the ground, saying it’ll add 10 percent to 15 percent to the cost of building a new home.

The new elevation recommendations were made last week as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s preliminary flood map advisory. Though preliminary — the final guidelines take effect in 2007 — the recommendations give homeowners an early indication of the elevation requirements they will likely be forced to meet when rebuilding houses that require repairs costing more than 50 percent of the home’s value. The guidelines also apply to new residential construction.

But the home builders group says the cost of elevating three feet could prohibit some owners from repairing their homes and price some buyers out of the market.

“This one-size-fits-all approach arbitrarily raises the flood elevations in areas that are already well above flood levels,� said Toni Wendel, president of the group. “It may also unnecessarily increase the costs of rebuilding homes that may not need to be elevated to the levels suggested by the maps.�
The home builders do have a point. But before they commit fully to the battle, they should see if homeowners can have all or some of the added cost offset by savings in insurance rates. FEMA should also consider providing grants to homeowners who rais their homes elevation. After all, FEMA has a dog in this fight too.

We find out later in the article that the 3-foot rule is only temporary.
Homeowners and home builders who don’t want to bear the cost of the 3-foot elevation do have an option: wait until 2010, said FEMA spokesman Ross Fredenburg.

Once the levees are repaired — a process that is expected to be complete by 2010 — the 3-foot elevation requirement will be suspended, Fredenburg said.

FEMA believes that “the 3-foot minimum is a reasonable level of standard, given the current level of protection, temporary nature of the risk and commitments of the (Bush) administration to restore the (levee) system,� Fredenburg said.
Furthermore, it's not FEMA that has the final word on home elevations.
Some municipalities and parishes may allow owners of homes built after 1984 to rely on the 1984 flood plain maps until the new advisory maps are made official in 2007. But Jon Luther, executive vice president of the New Orleans home builders group, said many parishes probably will adopt the new elevation recommendations in an effort to give builders the guidelines they need to move forward.
So once again, homeowners are left in limbo. We've been waiting for seven months for the flood maps to be issued and all we get is an advisory. Even then, it is up to the local jurisdictions to decide which advisories to adopt. Leaving the homeowner, once again, in a waiting game for someone to decide what needs to be done with their house.

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