Government officials in flood-prone areas are trying to make it cheaper for homeowners to raise their properties in order to help protect them against the threat. Homeowners are also encouraged to take out flood insurance policies.
Flooding is one of the major threats to homes in low-lying coastal areas, and the problem is being compounded by increasing federal flood insurance premiums.
“The seas are rising, the flood maps continue to get updated, and more homes are in coastal high hazard areas,” Brandi Gabbard, a broker associate at Smith and Associates and a city council member for St. Petersburg, Fla., told the Tampa Bay Times. “We need to be forward-thinking. How we can better help our residents access funding to get them out of harm’s way?”
The Tampa Bay Times notes that more than 35,000 homes in Florida are located in “extreme” risk zones for storm surges, as classified by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Insurance premiums for such homes are likely to increase significantly over the coming years as climate changes increases the threat to those properties. Noah Taylor, a floodplain coordinator for the city of St. Petersburg, told the Tampa Bay Times that rather than just pay for insurance, a better solution would be to raise existing homes.
One St. Petersburg resident did just that. David Noah told the Tampa Bay Times that he raised his entire home on steel beams after seeing the property threatened a number of times by flooding. His 1970s-built home now sits 14 feet above the ground.
Officials in St. Petersburg have been encouraging homeowners to apply for financial assistance via a federal program called the Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant, which helps to pay for renovations on homes that have been damaged by flooding in the past. Homeowners can apply for a grant through their local government, which sponsors their application through the state and national processes. The program is known for its generosity, with $160 million in flood mitigation assistance being allocated each year.
St. Petersburg officials have established a policy of only sponsoring grant applications to homeowners who plan to use the money to elevate their homes. The city will no longer back those applying for cash to demolish and renovate their homes, as it believes elevation projects are easier to get approved, and make more sense. Prevention is, after all, better than the cure.
For those unfamiliar with the task of raising a home, the process is actually fairly simple and can be completed in a single day in most cases. First, the contractor digs around the home and separates it from its foundation – then, steel I-beams are placed underneath the home, which is raised by four hydraulic jacks. The bottom of the home can then be enclosed or converted into a garage space.
The only problem is the cost, which averages around $217,000, though this caan vary quite a bit depending on how big the home is.