Last week the House of Representatives voted to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, extends the program and provides funding for it through 2016. It also establishes an advisory council to develop new mapping standards for 100-year flood insurance rate maps.
There are many provisions in H.R. 1309—you can read the full text here —but a few notable ones are those that allow property owners a little leeway in whether and how a property is classified and whether insurance is required. In the past few years some property owners have protested when efforts to remap flood zones have shown them to be in a floodplain—raising their insurance rates and potentially hurting their property values—and some have appealed their classifications.
Under the new rules, property owners may be exempt from purchasing the mandatory flood insurance if they can demonstrate that the lowest level of structure on the property is at least three feet higher than the elevation of the 100-year floodplain. Properties that are newly classified as being in a floodplain may not have to pay the full price for insurance right away, instead having the premium phased in over several years. On the other hand, property owners who have submitted repeated claims—building on the same piece of land over and over after repeated floods—might now pay higher rates.