“Because of changes in federal legislation, and because the flood maps are being rewritten in New York City, flood insurance costs for homeowners may increase significantly,” says Joseph Sant, director of homeowner services at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit that promotes home ownership. And those potential increases and changing maps have left many co-op and condo boards confused about flood insurance. That’s where FloodHelpNY comes in.
FloodHelpNY, a program designed to educate residents in New York about what they can do to mitigate flood risks, brings together engineers to do a resiliency audit. “We work with FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and with local government to actually get the algorithms down,” Sant says, “so that we can calculate people’s flood insurance now and [then calculate it] if they take mitigation measures. We’ve got this core of community-based counselors who can walk people through [the process]. We’re trying to simplify and demystify it a little bit, and [not] have people avoid engaging with the issue because it’s too complex. We want homeowners to know to what extent it’s going to affect their ability to stay in their homes.”
FloodHelpNY provides an engineer to conduct a building assessment. He examines the flood risks and suggests the retrofits that could reduce those risks and/or insurance costs. After that, the board members meet with an experienced counselor who walks them through the finances and the next steps.
“What’s really been striking to me,” says Sant, “is that people have simple questions. ‘Can I afford to live in my home long-term?’ ‘Is my insurance going to increase?’ ‘How do I not suffer as much damage in the next storm?’ They seem like typical questions, but in order to answer those, you need to bring in expertise from the engineering and building science guys. You need n insurance expert. A lot of times, you need to consult governmental sources. We’re trying to make all of those resources available to an owner [at] a one-stop shop.”
A way for co-op and condo boards to raise money for a project without tapping into a line of credit or taking out a new bank loan. Residents are asked to voluntarily pre-pay a certain number of months’ worth of maintenance or common charges. In return, they receive an interest payment or one or more months of free maintenance.