Township officials urged residents to contact state and federal representatives to voice their concern about upcoming flood insurance rate increases that could burden North Middletown homeowners whose properties didn’t flood during severe weather including Superstorm Sandy.
The premium increases—which officials said could be up to 100 percent if houses aren’t raised—ultimately could drive locals from their homes. Committeeman Anthony Fiore railed against the proposed National Flood Insurance Program rate hikes during his report at the committee’s Monday night regular meeting.
“It’s a national Ponzi scheme,” Fiore said. “You may see a hundred percent increase in your flood insurance. Ladies and gentlemen, that is ridiculous.”
Fiore said he can understand a rate increase for properties that sustained flood damage, but premiums also are increasing for 1,400 North Middletown homeowners who saw no rising water during Sandy or Hurricane Irene because of flood control systems.
Despite their apparent effectiveness, those systems were decertified by FEMA in 2009, leading to a higher flood map elevation for North Middletown homes.
The issue now, according to officials, is the 2012 Biggert-Waters flood insurance reform law, which could lead to annual flood insurance premiums of up to $31,000 a year if homes aren’t raised to comply with updated flood maps.
Raising a home could cost tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum. Homeowners in flood zones who have mortgages are normally required to carry flood insurance.
North Middletown homeowner Greg Hutchinson, along with several outspoken residents at the committee meeting, faces a premium increase if something isn’t done about Biggert-Waters. He said that residents and local officials need to work together to get state and federal representatives to listen.
“You guys can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it alone either,” he said. “We’ve worked too hard to walk away.”
Township officials have been in contact with state officials, including Gov. Chris Christie’s office, according to Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger.
They also are “narrowing down” a date for Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) to visit Middletown to address the problem with residents.
“Ultimately it’s up to the federal government and we really need to keep the pressure on them,” Scharfenberger said.
The mayor encouraged residents to contact their state representatives and urge them to take action. A form letter, along with the names and addresses of several state and federal officials, has been posted to Middletown’s website in an effort to garner public support.
“Us five up here, we’re birds chirping in the wilderness,” Scharfenberger said. Support from residents “shows that we have some numbers behind us.”
Fiore said that he would like the Township Committee to pass a resolution urging other municipalities near and far to support changes to Biggert-Waters.
“We’re not alone here in Middletown. This is happening up and down the coast of New Jersey. It’s happening in New York. It’s happening in Mississippi. It’s happening all over the place,” he said.
The resolution should propose a flood insurance rate freeze for properties not affected by Sandy, allow private carriers to compete with the national program, and encourage state action—such as an injunction—to block the legislation, Fiore said.
“I would support such a resolution,” said Deputy Mayor Stephanie Murray. “It’s very frustrating, aggravating, when federal agencies try to tell us what’s best for our communities and I’d like to see a speedy resolution to this.”
Fiore said that the resolution should be drafted within the next two weeks.