Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) today introduced the Fire-Damaged Home Rebuilding Act to ensure California homeowners who live in a flood plain could rebuild their homes in the event of a fire.
The bill would allow communities in the process of upgrading levee systems to waive the requirement that homes destroyed by fire be rebuilt at a higher elevation.
Under current regulations, homes located in a flood plain where levees don’t provide 100-year flood protection must be rebuilt at the base flood elevation if they are destroyed by fire. The base flood elevation could be as much as 20 feet above the current elevation, requiring the homeowner to rebuild on stilts.
However, homeowner insurance does not provide additional funds to cover the extra cost of rebuilding at those higher elevations. Rebuilding a home on 20-foot stilts could cost a family tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“Families facing the daunting prospect of rebuilding after a fire should not have to deal with endless red tape and the possibility that they won’t be able to afford rebuilding their home,” said Senator Feinstein. “Communities taking needed steps to strengthen their levee systems need flexibility to help families get back on their feet.”
“Homeowners who have played by the rules but have had the tragic misfortune of having their homes burn down should have the ability to rebuild with the fabric of their neighborhood intact. This is a nightmare a number of my constituents have faced over the past few years,” said Representative Matsui. “While a solution is at hand for Sacramento, we must pass national legislation to help homeowners across the country in a similar situation. Cities should be able to take a case by case approach to homeowners that have suffered fire damage. It is my hope that Congress will move on this legislation to create a process and bring immense relief to these homeowners.”
The Fire-Damaged Home Rebuilding Act would allow a local government to grant a waiver from flood plain management regulations if the following conditions are met:
- The home was destroyed by a fire or other non-flood disaster.
- The community is taking steps to repair the levee that does not currently provide adequate flood protection.
- The reconstruction is within the original footprint of the damaged structure.
- There has never been a national flood insurance claim for the property.
- The rebuilt structure is subject to the same insurance rates as the surrounding community.