Note: This is the fifth part of a series of blog posts that examine the impact of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on New York City’s coastal neighborhoods, many of which are home to many low-to-middle income homeowners. In this post, we introduce FloodHelpNY.org, a new website created to help homeowners understand the changes to the NFIP.
At the Center, our mission is to protect affordable homeownership in New York City. As we discussed in previous posts, legislative changes to the National Flood Insurance Program and New York City’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps will increase the cost of flood insurance for many homeowners living in flood-prone neighborhoods – many of whom are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
Within the context of Hurricane Sandy rebuilding, flood insurance rate increases, and the new flood maps, homeowners in New York City’s flood-prone neighborhoods must make critical decisions regarding rebuilding, mitigation, and the future physical and financial sustainability of their homes.
Through our work with homeowners recovering from Sandy, we have found that the the highly complex nature of flood insurance poses major communications challenges. Recognizing the need for clear, consumer-friendly information about flood insurance, New York City’s new flood maps, and expected rate increases, we created FloodHelpNY.org. It’s a website designed with a homeowner in mind and so it provides information and guidance about flood insurance in a user-friendly and interactive format.
We first prototyped FloodHelpNY at last year’s Code for Good challenge at JPMorgan Chase’s headquarters in New York. Working with non-profit technology developer Caravan Studios, we challenged six teams of bright young college students to come up with innovative ways to help homeowners understand the big changes stemming from changing laws, at the federal level, and changing flood maps, in New York City. The teams came up with fantastic ideas and opened up new approaches to this complex issue. We then worked with a JPMorgan Chase Force for Good team of technologists to follow through and build out the mapping functionality for the final site.
One of the most important features of FloodHelpNY.org is its interactive map, which allows homeowners to plug in their address to learn more about their individual situation. Our map shows homeowners address-specific flood risk information, including their current flood zone and whether it is expected to change.
FloodHelpNY.org’s Interactive Map
Complete with information on recent legislation impacting flood insurance, as well as easy-to-understand descriptions of the different flood zones and flood insurance policies, FloodHelpNY.org guides homeowners through a sequence that clearly explains their individual flood risk and insurance situation. It also contains a questionnaire to help homeowners find out whether and how much their flood insurance rates will increase, and provides information on mitigation options that homeowners can use to lower unaffordable premiums.
FloodHelpNY.org “What’s My Rate?” Questionnaire
We’re excited to see FloodHelpNY.org being used in floodprone communities to help individual homeowners understand their flood risk and prepare for the future. So go for it! Visit FloodHelpNY.org now to look up an address and then help us spread the word about this new resource with your colleagues, friends, and neighbors.
As we celebrate the launch of FloodHelpNY, we’d like to give thanks to the many partners that helped this project succeed, including JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, Freddie Mac, LISC, FEMA, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Caravan Studios, and the Flood Insurance Working Group, which included members from Legal Services NYC, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, South Brooklyn Legal Services, CAMBA, NYLAG, the Red Cross, and HUD, among others. Thank you, also, to our other beta reviewers, Jonathan Mintz of the CFE Fund, and Rebecca Elliot, PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley. And finally, thank you to our staff and consultants who dedicated countless hours to developing both the content and functionality of the site, including especially: Caroline Nagy, our Policy Manager; Leyla Moore, our graphic designer; Joey Brunelle, our web developer; and Chris Cardinal, our research analyst and cartographer extraordinaire.