Report: Over half of R.I. policyholders of national flood insurance will see premiums rise under FEMA 2.0

OVER HALF OF Rhode Island property owners with national flood insurance will see their premiums increase slightly under changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency program coming Oct. 1, according to projections by Quote Wizard. / PBN FILE PHOTO/BRIAN MCDONALD

PROVIDENCE – Over half of Rhode Island property owners with national flood insurance will see their annual premiums increase under changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency program, according to projections from insurance research company QuoteWizard LLC. 

FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0, expected to take effect beginning Oct. 1, overhauls the 50-year-old National Flood Insurance Program  by taking a more comprehensive approach to calculating flood risk and promising more equitable distribution that relieves the burden on policy holders with lower-valued properties, FEMA has stated.

The previous calculation methods relied only on a property’s elevation and whether or not it was located in a 100-year floodplain. The new assessment also incorporates other risk factors such as flooding from heavy rainfall, storm surge and river overflow, as well as flood frequency and the cost of rebuilding.

Of the 12,000 Rhode Island  properties with insurance through FEMA, 54% will see their annual premiums rise under Risk Rating 2.0, according to QuoteWizard, while 46% will see their rates decrease. For most, the changes will be slight – 3% will increase by more than $20, while 29% will drop by more than $20.

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Rhode Island is already among the states with the most expensive annual flood insurance rates. According to Quote Wizard, the Ocean State’s $1,416 annual premium is the third-highest among all state’s rates. However, under the new FEMA ratings, Rhode Island also has the largest percentage of policyholders – 22% –  who will see their premiums drop by $60 or more.

The rate changes only affect those who hold or purchase policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, which are typically only required when a buyer takes out a mortgage for a property in a designated, high-risk flood area. About 40,000 state properties do not have insurance through FEMA, and will therefore be unaffected by these changes.

However, some researchers and environmental advocates believe that even the new FEMA maps still underestimate the impacts of flooding and the number of properties at risk. A 2020 report by New York nonprofit First Street Foundation found that 9,000 more Rhode Island properties faced “substantial flooding risk” than were recognized in FEMA’s 2020 maps. Independent models through the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council also show more severe and far-reaching flooding than FEMA maps suggest.

Recognizing this, a group of property owners, community groups, environmentalists and government officials known as the ­Providence Resilience Partnership is working to develop a more accurate modeling system of flood impacts in Providence. 

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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