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Miami-Dade flood insurance rates to fall 35% under new federal risk rating

Cars drive on a flooded street.
Pedro Portal
Miami Herald
Aerial view of floods affecting West 29th Street and 14th Avenue in Hialeah as torrential downpours inundate South Florida due to a disturbance off Florida’s coast on Thursday, November 16, 2023.

As federal emergency managers finalize new flood zone maps expected to dramatically increase the number of property owners required to get flood insurance, Miami-Dade County has some good news: steep declines in flood insurance.

FEMA officials announced Friday that rates would drop 35% for property owners in unincorporated parts of the county after Miami-Dade leaped ahead two rankings in flood-risk rating.

“This is a huge step forward in resilience for our county,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told WLRN. “It indicates that we have been able to demonstrate that we can create more resilience, more protection for our community.”

FEMA created the rating program in 1990 to allow communities to cut flood insurance costs for property owners by showing improvements in fighting and warning about flooding — welcome news as windstorm insurance continues to skyrocket across the state. The new class three rating makes Miami-Dade the largest community to achieve that level and among the top two percent nationwide. About 1,500 communities are enrolled in the program that ranks preparedness from one to nine.

That accounts for 3.6 million property owners who make up 70% of the program’s policy holders.

READ MORE: New report: Climate change will fuel rising property insurance premiums in Florida

“We want to see more communities join the community rating system, because it is the opportunity to get credit for doing more than the minimum,” said Victoria Salinas, FEMA’s associate resilience administrator. “Insurance is a first line of defense in the recovery process.”

The news comes as FEMA and county officials wrap up revisions to old county flood zone maps thatdrastically under-estimated the risk. A 2018 study found the agency’s patchwork of maps used outdated data that failed to account for about 30 million properties nationally in danger of 100-year floods. Not surprisingly, Florida stood out as hotspot, with 28% of properties not included.

FEMA released preliminary new flood maps in 2020, which quickly drew objections and appeals. The agency is now finishing changes and plans on having the new maps take effect this year, said Marina Blanco-Pape, Miami-Dade water management chief. Those new expanded flood zones will require many more property owners to obtain flood insurance under a new National Flood Insurance Program pricing system with higher rates. The proposed new maps are available on Miami-Dade’s flood zone website.

Miami-Dade is also finalizing a new floodplain management plan. Levine Cava said the latest version of the plan will be available this month.

To help cut insurance costs for property owners, Miami-Dade first joined FEMA’s rating program in 2000 and has been steadily working to improve its standing, Blanco-Pape said. Keeping canals maintained and clean to fight increasingly higher flood waters, raising elevations for new and renovated buildings, and improving flood warnings helped bump the county’s ranking, she said.

The county also got credit for taking a harder look and improving projections for future conditions, Salinas said.

“That's something we want to see all communities do more of, because we're no longer dealing with yesterday's disasters,” Salinas said. “Every community needs to be prepared to reduce the human suffering that disasters cause.”

Jenny Staletovich is WLRN's Environment Editor. She has been a journalist working in Florida for nearly 20 years. Contact Jenny at jstaletovich@wlrnnews.org
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