Homeowners Saddled with Extra Flood Insurance because FEMA Uses Outdated Maps

Sunday, July 21, 2013

With its budget slashed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has had to rely on outdated maps indicating where Americans live in flood-prone areas. The problem with FEMA getting behind on its maps is that it forces homeowners who aren’t at risk of flooding into having to purchase costly flood insurance policies.


FEMA’s reliance on old maps impacts more than five million people who are paying for flood insurance, which can cost more than $3,000 annually. Many of these homeowners reside in flood plains, but some don’t—and they have a difficult time getting FEMA to acknowledge its mistake.


Donna Edgar and her husband live in the hills outside Austin, Texas, where flooding is not a danger. Nevertheless, FEMA said their property was at-risk. It cost the Edgars $1,000 and help from numerous engineers before FEMA corrected the status of their home.


“It’s been a mess,” Darling told ProPublica. “It’s been a headache for a lot of people.”


In North Dakota, the Red River has gone over its banks numerous times since the 1990s, but FEMA’s “new” maps for Fargo don’t include any recent flood data.


Since 2010, FEMA has had to make do with less money for mapmaking. Congress, with the support of the White House, has trimmed this funding for the map updating service by more than half in the last three years, from $221 million down to $100 million.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Using Outdated Data, FEMA Is Wrongly Placing Homeowners in Flood Zones (by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica) 

As Need for New Flood Maps Rises, Congress and Obama Cut Funding (by Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica)


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