Housing research: The hazards of rebuilding in a flood-prone area

A: It used to be that it was considered safer to build houses without the use of the foundations, which were exposed to floodwaters. Modern practice, however, has the frames of the house anchored…

Housing research: The hazards of rebuilding in a flood-prone area

A: It used to be that it was considered safer to build houses without the use of the foundations, which were exposed to floodwaters. Modern practice, however, has the frames of the house anchored to the foundation.

The National Flood Insurance Program finds that 46 percent of low-risk properties built after 1970 are “100-year flood plains.” Those are areas where flooding is considered highly likely every year, with a probability of less than 1 percent per year.

Surprisingly, low-risk homeowners who have the means to build in a flood plain, regardless of how much flood insurance they pay, are living there. A 2013 study published in the journal Coastal Risk found that 34 percent of low-risk homebuyers said they had not purchased a home in a flood-risk area out of concern about flooding.

However, given that a fourth of homeowners in these flood plains were under 65, it’s clear that older generations who are more likely to live in coastal areas are more concerned about flooding.

Q: How do you choose the locations and buildings you want?

A: Generally speaking, areas with flat terrain, higher elevation, river or beach access and wetlands are more affordable to build on, as are areas with elevated infrastructure. The more difficult locations are where elevation is limited or non-existent, widespread river and canal access, or water- and wind-resistant construction materials.

Q: How do I research the issues surrounding building in a flood plain?

A: Because a house can be built almost anywhere in the United States, it is more important to consider which areas are at greatest risk for flooding, and a list of home-based flood risks should be considered along with local zoning rules and other considerations.

For example, if you’re building on the shore of a tidal inlet, check the shoreline through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saffir-Simpson scale. The higher the rating, the higher the risk and the cost. If the site is in a flood plain, there may be restrictions or restrictions about how much a storm surge can rise if it occurs, and those can vary from region to region.

Even if your area does not flood, watch out for storm surges that may flood some adjacent areas.

Q: I’m trying to rebuild a historic home that was destroyed in the flood of 2010. Do I still need to meet FEMA flood insurance requirements?

A: Most rebuilding is not required until after the National Flood Insurance Program has completed a review of a home’s damage. But in all instances, you will need to comply with the specific local building codes and the construction code for your area.

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