Owners of expensive condos and beach houses along the coastline are petitioning the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redraw flood-zone maps to exclude their maps from the flood zones. Getting the maps redrawn saves as much as 97% in flood insurance — but gives petitioners the same protection as their neighbors inside the flood zones. NBC News has identified more than 530 sections of coastal property — eight of them in Virginia — where the lines have been redrawn.
NBC News also found that FEMA has redrawn maps even for properties that have repeatedly filed claims for flood losses from previous storms. At least some of the properties are on the secret “repetitive loss list” that FEMA sends to communities to alert them to problem properties. FEMA says that it does not factor in previous losses into its decisions on applications to redraw the flood zones.
And FEMA has given property owners a break even when the changes are opposed by the town hall official in charge of flood control. Although FEMA asks the local official to sign off on the map changes, it told NBC that its policy is to consider the applications even if the local expert opposes the change. …
Because waterfront properties are expensive, and it costs thousands of dollars to hire an engineer to press a case with FEMA, the remapped properties tend to be luxurious, either the first or second homes of industrialists, real estate developers and orthopedic surgeons.
That’s 21st-century America — get rich, hire a bunch of lawyers, engineers and tax accountants, lobby the government for special privileges, and sponge off the less well-to-do. FEMA is doing the right thing by raising insurance rates on coastal properties to reflect real risks of flood damage. But a morally corrupt system allows the wealthy and well connected to evade paying their share. Populist conservatives like me don’t mind people getting rich — creating wealth is a good thing. But we resent like hell when the rich use their wealth and power to win privileges not enjoyed by others.
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