My dad had a saying that the most frightening phrase in the English language is “I’m with the government, and I’m here to help.” His wisdom was again proven true by FEMA’s recently-released new flood zone maps. If you haven’t heard about these, and if you live in an area that is affected by them and are required to have flood insurance, you might be in for a rude awakening. These maps may present yet another obstacle to homeowners hoping to remain within the city and, for some, it may be insurmountable.
According to these, the area bounded roughly below St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street have been determined to be "High-Risk" and therefore require Flood Zone A1 flood insurance, which comes with A1 prices. If you live here and were previously zoned B, expect your annual flood insurance premium to increase by an order of magnitude once these maps get caught up in the cogs of the system. And they will, as they did in my case, all for a property which saw no flooding as a result of the levee breaks or any significant street flooding as far back as four generations of neighborhood memory can recall.
Now a cheap shot at the web-optimization skills of the tech folks at FEMA. If you are familiar with the minor hassle of friends or family who e-mail attachments like photos to you at their original un-cropped size, then you will be familiar with the massive PDFs embedded in the FEMA site where the mere act of clicking on them will peg your CPU at 100% before crashing your computer. Then, once reloaded, they required you to navigate within them using the scroll bars to the far right and bottom of your screen. Impressive. The bloated file size of a blue-ray release combined with the navigational capacity of Pong! does not an intuitive user interface make.
It is kind of disheartening to get blindsided by something like this. With homeowner’s insurance already at sky-high prices and largely unavailable on the private market, coupled with property tax and these new flood rates, homeowners might soon see 40 percent of their monthly note going to stuff other than P&I. Recently, I mentioned to an out-of-town friend how much a homeowner’s premium costs in New Orleans. Later, when he stopped laughing, I learned that his policy cost about 10 percent of what I was paying. It was, essentially, negligible.
As the effect of this new map ramifies through the insurance providers’ network, more people will become aware of what this actually means to the average New Orleans homeowner. Maybe then there will be some mainstream focus on the issue. Until then I will order a flood elevation certificate, submit it, and cross my fingers in the hope that the offsetting consequence will offer sufficient rationalization to justify remaining in the neighborhood FEMA has painted with its red brush.