Check your address: Is your home in the Tampa Bay flood zone danger zone?

8 On Your Side

If you live anywhere near the water, you have probably thought about whether your home is in danger of flooding. 

This year, thousands are learning they are now inside FEMA’s newly-updated flood zone danger zone. That is motivating some of your neighbors to elevate their thinking when it comes to property their property. 

In the summer of 2017, Hurricane Irma clobbered Jeff and Kathleen Grant’s St. Petersburg home. Kathleen describes holes in the roof and water coming down the walls.  

They thought about making repairs. Then they read the FEMA rules.

Jeff Grant called the 50% rule brutal. That’s because, in flood zones, if your home is damaged and needs repairs costing more than 50% of the house’s market value minus the value of the land, FEMA won’t allow it.  

“The cost to fix that was going to be more than the 50% percent,” Kathleen Grant said. “So that’s when we said, okay we have to re-look at what we’re going to do and we came up with this.”  

She’s talking about elevating the family home. They hired AJS Construction to do the work. Jeff Grant took pictures and video with his cell phone showing the house slowly going up about twelve feet.  

“They got it all the way up in less than two days,” Grant said.  

Randy Young of ARC Design helped the Grants with their remodeling.  He says homeowners in flood zones who don’t want to move really just have two other options when disaster strikes.

“You have to either tear it down at that point and build a new home or you lift it and refashion it the way it was or however you want to fashion it at that point,” Young said.  

The good news is when you are above the floodplain, you are no longer bound by the 50% rule.  

We caught up with AJS Construction President Mike Knapp at another home that he is lifting in Belleair Bluffs. His elevation business is on the rise.

“On this one, we lifted the slab and all,” explained Knapp. “People don’t think you can. Well, you can.”

Yes, you can. For about $65 dollars a square foot. That is not cheap, but he says it is much less than new construction.  

FEMA’s updated coastal flood maps impact more Bay area homeowners than ever before and more dramatically. For example, on sections of Davis Islands, the base flood elevation is going up another 6 feet, making the base flood elevation level 16 feet.

Rising with the elevation are flood insurance premiums.   

FEMA may provide money to qualified homeowners to elevate their homes, but there is a limit. It also takes a lot of time and patience to work through the system.  

Dave Jennings is the Floodplain Manager for the city of Tampa. He can only recall FEMA giving money to a resident for an elevation project once in his 38-year career with the city.  

“It literally took the woman three years to get her permits and her grant money from FEMA to elevate it 2 feet,” said Jennings.

Jeff and Kathleen hope by elevating their home now, it will save them time and money in the long run. It’s been a lot of hard work, they admit, but at least now they are flooded with optimism.    

There is much to consider before elevating your home. For example, how much will it cost? How high should you go? Will access be a problem? Will your house look proportional with other homes in the neighborhood after it is raised on piers?

“It was hard for me to imagine it,“ explained Kathleen Grant. “But so far, it’s turning out exactly like what we were hoping for.”    

You can check your current Below Flood Elevation level and compare it to the estimated level for 2019 on the FEMA website.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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