By Joshua Truksa

Staff Reporter

Hillcrest Village residents packed their city hall on Thursday evening for a presentation on the new flood insurance maps being issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that will affect area residents, drastically increasing some people’s rates.

Hillcrest Village Mayor Tom Wilson said he reached out to local flood insurance counselor Michael Lansford after hearing about the changes and asked him to give the community a presentation on the actions FEMA is taking.

FEMA is issuing revised flood insurance maps for the area, which Lansford said typically occurs once every 10 years for the Hillcrest Village area. Lansford said the new maps do not reflect the reality of who was affected the most by Hurricane Harvey but were based purely upon elevation. Many people in the community live in areas that are being rezoned from Zone X to Zone AE, which is defined as having a higher flood risk. These individuals are on a deadline to ensure that their rates don’t go up drastically and suddenly.

“There’s some key dates that y’all are going to need to remember and to act before if you want to save some money,” Lansford said.

Individuals remaining in Zone X will still see their premiums increase, but to a much lesser degree than those who are zoned in Zone AE. Those in Zone X will be in the Preferred Risk Program, though this program will be phased out and homeowners will transition into standard Zone X rates. Homeowners in the Preferred Risk Program will see their premiums increase by at most 18 percent per year until they meet standard Zone X rates.

No one who owns their home outright will be required to obtain insurance, but if these homeowners to desire coverage they will need to obtain it before the beginning of next year to avoid paying much higher rates immediately.

People living in homes zoned as Zone AE with mortgages will be required to have flood insurance.

“FEMA is going to require your mortgage company to require you to have flood insurance,” Lansford said.

With the Preferred Risk Program being phased out, those living in Zone X who do not obtain an elevation certificate could see their premiums rise from $482 to $2,393.

“Tells you how important that elevation certificate is,” Lansford said.

Many of Hillcrest Village’s residents live in homes classified as “prefirm” buildings, meaning they predate the first flood map created for the area July 1, 1974. These homeowners will be required to purchase flood insurance before the beginning of next year to be grandfathered into the Preferred Risk Program and have their premiums increase gradually rather than suddenly. Applications have a waiting period of 30 days, so Lansford urged people to apply no later than Dec. 1, 2019.

Lansford said that under the circumstances of being grandfathered into temporarily lower rates, those in “prefirm” homes should consider flood insurance even if they never have before.

“Here’s a concern I have. With people who have no mortgage, OK, and they don’t want flood insurance; it’s never flooded before and you’re not worried about it, the only thing I want to caution you about it is one thing — Do you want to sell your house anytime soon? Do you want to sell the house? Do you think it’s going to affect the value you can get for your house if all of a sudden the people’s flood insurance is going to cost $3,000?” Lansford asked rhetorically.

Lansford explained that flood insurance is one of the few insurance policies that is transferable, meaning the lower rates could be passed on to the new owner.

“If you have a homeowner’s policy and you sell your home, that policy will stop the day of closing and a new one will start, OK. Flood insurance is different. You buy the flood insurance, you buy the policy, you have your Zone X grandfathered, another party can buy your home and then assume that policy and keep all the grandfathering,” Lansford said.

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