Cost of flood insurance poised to rise for thousands

Mother Nature has spared U.S. coastal cities from devastating hurricanes this season, but some local homeowners should brace themselves nonetheless.

The cost of flood insurance for thousands of properties in South Hampton Roads soon could go up - significantly in some cases.

Subsidies that have kept insurance costs down for many homeowners across the country will be phased out beginning Oct 1. And those discounts no longer will be transferable from owner to owner, which will add hundreds or thousands of dollars to the annual out-of-pocket costs for buyers of such homes.

On top of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is redrawing flood zone boundaries. Houses that aren't in a flood zone now might find themselves on the riskier side of the line once the maps are finalized in 2014. Those homes will have to be insured against flooding.

"This is a major evolution, and that's why everybody is so - I guess the best word to say is 'afraid,' " said Terry Croft, operations manager for The Braun Agency, an insurance company in Virginia Beach.

About 20 percent of policies are subsidized nationwide, but in South Hampton Roads, the rate varies, city to city.

Because Virginia Beach is a relatively newer community, only about 4 percent of properties with the insurance have subsidized rates, said Rebecca Lear, certified flood plain manager for the city. In Norfolk, about 18 percent of flood insurance policies are subsidized.

The upcoming changes were prompted by a 2012 law that sought to shore up the federal flood insurance program, which is deep in debt. Still, across the region and in other coastal areas, many are concerned that the shift will hurt home values and the real estate market.

Federal officials say they are moving toward a system in which the cost of all insurance policies will be based on the actual flood risk a homeowner faces.

That risk partially depends on the elevation of a house, so there's not a one-size-fits-all formula to calculate new premiums.

In general terms, if you are required to have flood insurance because you live in a risky zone, and if your house was built before the mid-1970s, you likely have been paying a subsidized rate for flood insurance.

Croft urges homeowners to talk to their insurance agents about whether they will have to pay higher premiums. Agents also can suggest ways to lower insurance bills by making home improvements that mitigate flood damage.

Beginning Oct. 1:

- The most significant change in the insurance program will be a complete elimination of any subsidy for properties that are sold. That immediately increases - in some cases substantially - the cost of buying a home that has had subsidized insurance.

- Property owners who let their subsidized policies lapse will trigger immediate rate increases.

- Subsidies will begin to be phased out on businesses and homes that have suffered severe or repetitive losses.

- Those who purchased a home with subsidized insurance after the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed by lawmakers last year also face the loss of that discount after their first policy renewal.

Vacation and investment homes with subsidized insurance started seeing a phaseout of the discounts in January.

All subsidized holders of flood insurance eventually will need to get an elevation certificate to help determine the actual risk they face. Otherwise, their rates will continue to climb, even if, based on risk, they should be paying lower premiums.

Elevation certificates are used to measure how far above or below a house is to the base flood elevation, and they tend to cost $250 to $700, Croft said.

The National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968 because fewer private insurers were willing to take on the risk.

"That's the issue with flood insurance as a whole," said Lenny Newcomb, Norfolk's manager of land use services. "It's an insurance policy against inevitable damage."

The program was designed to provide an affordable way for homeowners to protect themselves. It largely worked like it was supposed to until 2005, but the flood insurance fund has been in the red ever since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

The Biggert-Waters Act is designed to make the fund solvent again. As of July 31, the flood insurance program owed the U.S. Treasury about $24 billion, according to the General Accounting Office.

"The federal government realizes it's not a reasonable investment to insure at a subsidized rate when you know there's going to be a flood," Newcomb said.

Still, lawmakers were scrambling last week to find a way to delay the rate hikes.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, said the federal government should spend more money shoring up its infrastructure to protect homes from flooding. He cosponsored a resolution that would delay for three years some of the premium increases and require FEMA to work closer with state and local officials when creating new maps.

"We have, unfortunately, prioritized tax cuts over keeping up with our infrastructure needs," Scott said in a statement. "It was never the intent of Congress, however, to impose punitive and unaffordable flood insurance premiums as a result of Biggert-Waters."

SmarterSafer.org, a coalition that backs "smart natural catastrophe policy," and some other interest groups have urged lawmakers to let the subsidies disappear as planned.

"Not only have subsidized premiums resulted in a huge burden to U.S. taxpayers, but these subsidies have incentivized development in environmentally sensitive and flood-prone areas... resulting in even greater losses," SmarterSafer.org wrote in a letter to House leaders.

Flood plain managers and insurers say Biggert-Waters is bringing about the first substantive changes to the flood insurance program since its inception.

Scott Hunter, founder of Virginia Beach-based Comparity, said he has a client whose $2,000 annual flood insurance premium will jump to $5,000 after the subsidies disappear. His company helps its clients buy coverage by comparing rates from more than 20 insurers.

Another startling statistic: In 2002, fewer than 200 properties in Norfolk had two or more flood claims in their history. In 11 years, that number has climbed to nearly 900, Newcomb said.

"The homes are in areas that have proven over and over again that flooding will occur - not only during hurricane events," Newcomb said.

Flooding in Hampton Roads is a problem that's not going away, Newcomb said. During the past three major flood events - all within the past 10 years - water has risen almost as high as it did during a 1933 hurricane that has been cited as last century's most severe storm.

Through grants, the city is in the process of elevating 12 houses that routinely flood, and officials have applied for federal grants that would pay to raise 25 more.

"Every imaginable thing we can come up with, we're addressing it," Newcomb said.

Chesapeake is one of the first cities in South Hampton Roads to receive preliminary flood zone maps from FEMA. Residents can compare the new and old maps online, said Jay Tate, flood plain administrator for the city.

Tate said he had been told flood insurance rate increases based on those maps could range from 25 percent to 850 percent.

"It's like separating the good drivers from the bad drivers," he said. "Whatever your true risk is, you're going to pay for it."

There is a chance the rate changes could work in a homeowner's favor. Elevation certificates might show that some residents have been paying more than they should have been, and their rates will drop. Some who are now in a risky zone might wind up in the clear when FEMA's insurance rate maps come out next year.

But the reverse is much more likely. And if that's the case, the changes could drag on Hampton Roads' real estate market, which already has been struggling under the weight of military spending cuts.

"There's no question about it. It will have some negative impact on the housing market," said Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics at Old Dominion University.

Sandra DiCarlo isn't required to pay flood insurance on her home in Norfolk's Colonial Place, but she took out a policy because the neighborhood - bordered by the Lafayette River and its offshoots on three sides - is prone to flooding.

She worries she will be required to carry a policy when the new flood maps come out, and she is especially concerned about what that means for her property value.

"If I want to sell my house, they're going to say, 'Is flood insurance required?' and if it's a big, fat bill, who's going to want to live there?" DiCarlo said.

One neighbor who grew up in Colonial Place says water didn't rise above the bulkhead around the neighborhood when he was a child, DiCarlo said. Now it washes over during high tide.

Water has seeped into her basement four times over the past 13 years, but there wasn't enough damage to warrant filing claims, DiCarlo said.

Sea level rise, sinking ground and the severity of recent storms are hot topics among neighbors, but they don't talk about leaving, she said. Has DiCarlo considered it?

"I don't want to admit it, but I have," she said.

Sarah Kleiner Varble, 757-446-2318, sarah.varble@pilotonline.com

Posted to: Business News Weather

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Premiums on flood insurance

Premiums on flood insurance to rise in attempt to pay for Obamacare. Everyone's premiums are going up on all insurance as the liberal socialists in this administration rob us blind. All in the name of "fairness". That's how the communists confiscate personal wealth....all in the name of "fairness" for the common good. Sound familiar.

Some things never change.

Some things never change. You can always be counted upon to comment without reading an article.

"The Biggert-Waters Act is designed to make the fund solvent again. As of July 31, the flood insurance program owed the U.S. Treasury about $24 billion, according to the General Accounting Office."

Good Lord man, get a grip

The Feds are REDUCING subsidies. They are getting out of assisting Mercans with lower flood insurance rates. Our Galtian insurance overlords will be setting / raising the prices on their plans. The insurance companies will be "confiscating more of your personal wealth". Man, BHO Derangement Suffering on steroids.


Flood insurance handouts are ok? Based on the tone of your comment I'd guess you were against government handouts, especially when it results in debt. Maybe I'm off base...

This has NOTHING to do with Obamacare

Nobody could be more opposed to the looming disaster of Obamacare than I am, but to tie it to the costs of flood insurance is ludicrous. It hurts all conservatives when people say stuff like this.

We desperately need for the government to get out of the business of subsidizing things that cannot stand on their own feet, and that is what this change begins to do. People who build and buy houses anywhere (including me) need to pay the full cost of doing so. If someone wants to build/buy in a risky place, it should be their right to do so, but they must pay the costs.

It's a shame that previous subsidies have blinded homeowners as to the true costs of their decisions.

worse federal program ever

We are subsidizing people to live in flood plains.

Worse federal program ever.

and yet

There goes your darling bobby "gerrymander" scott with a bill to delay the end of subsidies. I'm confused by you liberals, should we the taxpayers subsidize the wealthy oceanfront property owners or not? I actually agree with you (yes that is rare), the taxpayers should not be in the business of keeping anyone's insurance rates down. Phase out the subsidies out immediately!

you need to separate "flood" and "wealthy" oceanfront homeowner

Did you watch any video after Katrina? All those "wealthy oceanfront homeowners" in the lower 9th ward. Same here. Try driving around in Norfolk during a Nor'easter with high tides and see all the flooding in land locked neighborhoods. There are lots and lots of small, old, houses in low lying areas where the water runs to during a flood. Yes, the press shows the expensive Sandbridge home falling into the sea, but they also show people in land locked neighborhoods in canoes. Floods hit are area all over, not just at the oceanfront. It is not just a wealthy person problem.

There are areas in all the

There are areas in all the seven cities that are prone to flooding. And no they are not all wealthy neighborhoods.


The lines drawn for recent elections were drawn by the GOP majority in the General Assembly--that hardly benefits Scott or any other Dem.

Second Largest Cause of Property Loss

Flood losses in the US average about $7.6 billion/year. US fire losses average about $10.4 billion/year.
Flood is the second largest cause of property loss in the US every year.
Most flood losses are not beachfront homes, but are inland.
You can’t buy flood insurance on the open market – no insurer will sell it without federal backing.
Yes we should not build/rebuild in certain places (i.e. 100 year flood zones, V Zones) and yes people in more flood prone areas should pay higher premiums. Especially those who have built their homes below the inundation depth. We have a problem that needs to be managed, so what’s your solution?

tear the houses down

No federal money for flood insurance. In the worst flood areas tear the houses down and turn the are into parks. Colorado is crazy to rebuild in some of those canyons.

Some states already do

In Grand Forks, ND they did just that in the late 1990s after massive flooding along the Red River. They would not allow the rebuilding of certain neighborhoods and turned those neighborhoods into parks. Nothing wrong with that; it means there are fewer people at risk now when the spring thaw comes there and the river overflows. Smart move, so maybe other states should take notice. Just because you have a piece of undeveloped land doesn't mean that it's a bad thing; leave it be we don't really need concrete everywhere do we?


is going to have a HUGE impact on States like Florida. Who's going to retire in a home with a $5,000 dollar insurance bill each year? I don't think it will be too bad in Hampton Roads, but, look out Gulf Coast!

Many of the elderly own their homes outright and won't insure

Lots dump all the equity from their expensive northern homes into the FL retirement home and own it outright and thus do not have to buy insurance and don't or won't when the rates go up. Huge risk because they will lose it all in the next hurricane to cause big damage to them.


It would be nice to have a link to current flood maps and the proposed changes (if that is known yet).

FEMA Flood Map Link

Search by address at the FEMA link below...Local Government Web sites typically offer interactive online mapping if you access their GIS (Geographic Information System) map data.
FEMA Map Service Center:

Chesapeake Maps and Flood Zone Open House

Here's a link for Chesapeake. The city will have an open house event on 30 Oct, where "attendees will be able to speak one-on-one with representatives from FEMA about the changes, see the current and proposed flood zones for properties, and ask questions about flood insurance".


The city dumps every storm drain it has into the Lafayette river and the Elizabeth river.This process loads these rivers with tons and tons of silt.The city then charges home owners storm water fees,so take that money and dredge the silt back out or put silt/trash catch basins in infront of these large drains for annual removal.They built one in front of hospital(Sentera) and planted sea grass,of course all of the grasses died.I remember walking around the shore lines in old tennis shoes pushing a bushel basket collecting crabs.These areas now are all waist high in silt/mud.Knitten-Mill Creek off Mayflower Dr. and Colley Ave is a prime example.Just a solution approach to an immediate problem,but not the final answer!

new home sales incentive...pay for flood policy

Could be a negotiation in the sale of house....Add in the contract say 5 years of insurance premium. May be a new part of some home sales deals.

Somewhere in the article the author should have noted

that if you own your home outright, you can't be forced to buy insurance of any kind. Of course this is not true when it comes to your own body, but for the time being, it's true for your house. And all this time I thought I owned my body outright....

Willoughby Spit

Is underwater when a major storm comes.

The city should buy out the entire 2 miles of homes on the spit. Every single one. The spit, like the rest of Norfolk, will eventually be under water.

The city has NOT done enough remediation, elevating or buyouts to stop the flooding.

If you ask John Kiefer what to do, he will give you a blank stare. His department under his leadership has done nothing to shore up flooded areas. He just says "It's in a flood area. What did you expect?"

Time for some drastic actions. If you have recurring flooding, you are gone.

The city's new regulations are NOT enough. They should be tougher for us homeowners who built high enough.

T.B.A. and H.R.R.A. have gotten into this fight too. STAY OUT!

Spit Living

When I bought my 1920 house on the Spit in 2007, the only time it had flooded was in 2003. I had water in 2009 and 2011. I had planned to elevate the house with my own money. Went to the city to start the process and LENNY NEWCOMB told my builder that I was too close to the property line by 1 foot and that it had to be moved over to conform to the zoning laws or HE WOULD NOT ALLOW THE WORK TO BE DONE. I do not have the money to do that; it increases the costs incredibly. Newcomb's solution: get a FEMA grant. My house is not a single-family home (FEMA requirement), so I have attempted to get work done to put it back together and guess what: LENNY NEWCOMB says it sits in a flood zone and he won't authorize permits to do that.

Folks have been warned this was coming for years now

from higher rents on tenants living in apartments built in local swamps to newly-minted penthouse paupers who thought they were invincible.

When we starting buying

When we starting buying flood insurance it was $317.00 per year. My last bill which came in the mail about 2 weeks ago is now $2000.00 per year. This is getting crazy these premiums, my rental house homeowners went from $600.00 per year to $1500.00 per year. All of these insurance bills are getting out of control!!!


--did you notice this was about the cost to you?--not the profits of the insurance companies.
--no one wants to talk about that.--they are not making enough money so they just raise your costs.--don't you wish you could do that with your paycheck, if you get any?
--no major problems around here, but just in case, we're going to raise your premiums.--ENJOY!--and all of your bankers insist you have insurance,--just like OBAMA and OBAMACARE--ENJOY

Flood Insurance - NO PROFITS

It's a Government Program, NOT private insurance. It's been in the red since Katrina hit New Orleans...The Treasury (Taxpayers)now cover the losses.
In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Act established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which allows property owners to purchase insurance from the U.S. government that covers certain losses from flooding. Property owners with NFIP policies are receiving government subsidies to live in areas with high flood risk.

Government program

Yes, please keep in mind this is a government program. Flood rates are set by the government not your insurance company. Your insurance company collects the premium and services your policy. SO, no matter who you try and shop out Flood coverage with, the rate will be the same.

---Paying for the risk

---No Frank this about those who live in flood prone area to pay a more accurate cost than having the rest of us footing the bill.
---Just like auto insurance, if you own higher risk auto then your rates are higher, own property in a flood zone pay a higher premium nothing to hard about that to understand.
---Or you want everyone to pay for those few who decide live close to water with higher taxes?
---By the way it's ACA and not EVERYTHING is related to it or to your president.---I see you didn't take Chris33 advice to get some fresh air yesterday.

LCR...& C33

You always want equal until it effects you.. Amazing & easy to point out by using your own words.

Just like auto insurance.....

Good analogy... but you left out some really cold facts.
It is LAW to have auto insurance and yet, many do not have, therefore the rates are RIGGED to balance the books. Those that can pay.. PAY.. for those that do not have, get away with it.
Same with the hospital. I had surgery a few yrs ago, had self employed insurance plan... out of a $42k bill, the insurance only covered $30k. I had to pay the difference & it was explained to me by a Sentara accts. rep... Example: The hospital has a budget of $1b and year end, if short, we seek $$$ else where to balance the sheets, no matter where we can get it. You can afford, someone can't; thanks for your contribution". "YES, she did deliver the message this way to me"

People in Virginia are not

People in Virginia are not required to have auto insurance as long as they pay the uninsured motorist fee to DMV each year. If they do, they keep their license and drive.

I had surgery at Sentara and realized I was going to be faced with a high deductible. Prior to the surgery, I negotiated with their finance department and agreed to pay the deductable in cash as long as they lowered it significantly. Sentara agreed and my portion was significantly less than what it would have been otherwise.

Stormwater Managment

The city's entire stormwater management budget from now until 2020 will be allocated to the Shore Drive/Lynnhaven Colony area and nowhere else! Pay attention to city presentations! Those waterfront owners are getting plenty of subsidies from taxpayers--just in another form.

Frankly I'm glad the government is starting to pass on the real cost of these things and I' also glad it is being management centrally because could you imagine the premiums if it wasn't regulated. Insurance companies are already stopping underwriting new hurricane policies in this area.

this isnt stormwater management

stormwater management and stormwater funds should be used for Precipitation flooding not tidal flooding; you cant keep the bay out of low lying areas. should be your problem if you build or purchase a home in a low lying area. I live in a community off of Shore dr that floods but that was my choice.


For 30 years I grew up and lived 100 yards from Long Island Sound, there was no such thing as flood insurance, in those days you took responsibility for your choices. I can remember opening the door to our basement and discovering that we had an indoor swimming pool that I never knew about! I couldn't figure why it wasn't there all the time.:):)

There was no running to the insurance company, you pumped out the water and repaired the damage as best you could, or.......you moved away from the water.
I know this comment will go over like a lead blimp.

Move to the higher ground?

Move to the higher ground? Some people cannot afford to relocate to Knob Hill with the richer folks. Slogans and easy solutions are cute, but often wrong. Each year the insurance companies make millions from those who can afford protection for the terror of a big storm. The government says it has a responsibility to protect us from enemies abroad, but extreme weather can be more damaging to the lives of our people. Norfolk, in particular, is not prepared for the big storm and if it ever comes we are all losers, not just the rich and powerful and those lucky enough to afford protection.

Hey..., Through rules, regs & taxations;

is how you kill a society from w/in. "Nudge, by Cass Sunstein." And yes, he works at the white house; do your own research; easy to find.

Being a Realtor & a homeowner, I have been "LEARNING" as much as I can & FEMA is nothing more then another tentacle of the ever growing Government that is set up to TAKE more $$$ from & constrict/control her people.

Well the time has come to share what is really going on & here she is; ready to plunge into the abyss? Let's just say, "A crystal ball of things to come & unfortunately, she is right on time."

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sTA42sc3W8

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGzS5dd0dT0

WAKE UP AMERICA & stand together; it is time to Chop down that HUGE, growing Governmental bean stalk.

Between 2005-2007, how many home buys were you

... involved with where NINJA loans or some other rubbbish were at play? Talk about the abyss.


You beat me to it.

Uninsured losses

The NFIP was solvent until Katrina when the program along with FEMA poured billions into New Orleans to people who had not purchased the insurance and did not qualify for the amounts of money FEMA spent on them. Hence the debt by the NFIP which now will have to be paid by innocent policyholders. This is really a tax to recover money spent on ineligible people.

result of poor area planning

As we live in the area we do....water and land management should long ago been a part of some comprensive planning.

Move On

I enjoy reading these us vs the rich comments,because they could easily turn around and make the same argument,that they are tired of paying for a bunch of sap-suckers!Move on to solution ideas.This is a problem that affects us all,so if we cannot raise the city and I have noticed that over the years a gradual increase in floods coupled with a rapid increase in run-off what can we do?When we have these floods how come Va. Beach ocean front property is not under water,after all they are on the front line.I think its the rivers and tributaries which are being inundated with STORM WATER RUN-OFF from every drain pipe in the City of Norfolk and Portsmouth.Invest in silt pond traps of some sort and dig the present non-aqua growing crap up and out

shouldn't have been subsidised to start with.

I'm tired of seeing the same houses in the same low lying areas be rebuilt time and time again at the expense of the taxpayers. It's time to put the full burden of foolishness on the homeowner. If the homeowner wants to continue to remodel their house every two years due to a flood then they should pay the high rates for the insurance payout it takes to to it. Houses in low lying areas should be either torn down or raised up on higher foundations to either eliminate or reduce the damage by flood water. It this area one of the main thing homebuyers should be looking at is if the house is in a potential flood zone or if it has ever flooded before. The area homes are grossly overpriced and overtaxed for the average income already.

Faulty Logic

Be careful with your comments as they could come back and bite you later. My daughter and her husband bought a house in Hampton some time back and it was not in a flood zone. But now thanks to "remapping" by FEMA, it's now in a flood zone and they now pay over $1,000 extra per year for the mandated insurance. But according to your logic, that house should now be torn down and my daughter forced to start from scratch.

Remember, "Tidewater" was named for that very reason. Websters defines tidewater as "water that inundates land at flood tide". Does that mean we should just scrap this entire region?


I am confused about the stopping of help with flood insurance. We want less government until it is going to cost us money. If you can not afford the insurance don't buy that house at risk. My insurance was raised because of all the payouts to those living close to the coast. I made no claim but have to pay for others claims. It is not fair.

i agree

With the comments about up until Katrina, and the us vs them comment. Dead on. Whiney outside looking in sqawkers until one day they fall in the fish bowl.
The answer is to fix the problems and ensure the building codes of new construction ensures the properties are elevated enuff to defeat the trends in our recent string of bad luck from hurricanes and nor'easters. Lynnhaven & Ruddee Inlets need floodgates. That would fix 99% of Va. Beach's problem. The rest is backwater into drainage canals. Otherwise there are grants to assist in mitigating the older properties and get them up to current code eliminating claims. The article was wrong. There are not 12 current mitigation properties, there are only 9 who have been waiting since 2009.

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