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FEMA is changing the way it charges for flood insurance

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Posted at 8:49 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 11:49:30-04

Over the years, Gordon Peabody has learned to respect the water.

As a coastal consultant living and working in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he's helped develop innovative techniques for protecting property owners who live in this picturesque ocean town.

"You’re at the edge of the earth, you’re in God’s country, and the rules are very, very, different," he said.

The shorelines that Gordon walks are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Like many communities, they've seen their share of floods over the past few decades.

From hurricanes to rising sea levels, this tourist town by the sea is particularly susceptible to flooding.

As a result, FEMA has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in flood insurance claims to property owners over the year. The money pays for dune restoration and raising homes into the air, so they sit above potential floodwaters.

But the rates that people across the country pay for flood insurance are changing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA recently rebranded their flood insurance program. The program is known as "Risk Rating 2.0," which bases premiums on things like a homeowner's distance to the water and the cost of replacing a building.

In some parts of the country, flood insurance rates are dropping, and they're increasing considerably in others. And it’s not just coastal communities impacted by these changes; some 13 million Americans live in flood zones, be it by the ocean, a river, or just a small stream.

Shannon Hulst, a flood plane specialist, sees these changes as a major benefit to homeowners and business owners alike.

"What FEMA is saying is the closer you are to the source of the flooding, the higher your rates are going to be," she said.

Back in Provincetown, building inspector Anne Howard is working almost daily on flood plans. Efforts to manage climate change here have been decades in the making, and the hard work is paying off.

FEMA recently dropped the entire flood risk rating for this town, meaning flood insurance rates here will drop by as much as 10%.

"What we are demonstrating to FEMA by that is that we are paying attention to substantial improvements, damage to buildings," building inspector Anne Howard said.

Around here, they know there's no controlling the sea, so instead of ignoring the changes rolling in, Provincetown is meeting the waves of change head-on.