Hundreds of homeowners in Agawam have been finding out they have to carry flood insurance. Others who already had flood insurance may soon find their rates going up.
On Thursday, Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen said new flood maps drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were to blame. The rate increase was expected because of a law passed by congress in 2012.
FEMA spokesman Dennis Pinkham said the flood lines had changed because technology allowed the agency to be more accurate with topography. Old maps showed elevation in multiples of ten feet. With new technology, that has been brought down to 2 feet. In Agawam, that meant hundreds of homes are now inside the 100 and the 500-year flood zones. Additionally, Mayor Cohen said many homes inside the 500-year flood zone were now being required to carry flood insurance by their lenders.
Cohen said the town was mandated to approve the new zoning or lose federal funding. He stated he voiced his displeasure to federal legislators and suggested residents do the same. He called the new regulations "unjust" and a "burden" for residents.
Agawam resident Kristin Hodges said her flood insurance had been going up for years. Her home on the Connecticut River was already inside the 100-year flood zone prior to the adjustment. She said the additional homes having to get flood insurance would lower property values. In her opinion, potential home buyers would be scared off by the thousands of extra dollars required for insurance. She stated middle-class homeowners would be forced out of neighborhoods because only wealthy people could afford the growing cost of flood insurance. She was organizing a grassroots effort to combat the rising cost of flood insurance along with what she described as unfair banking practices. She said some banks had been requiring homeowners to carry more flood insurance than what was required.
Massachusetts senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren were working on legislation called the Homeowner Flood insurance Affordability Act to give financial relief to homeowners and businesses because of the law signed last year.
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