Politics

Louisville Metro Council members are set to consider a bill Thursday evening that would relax a provision in the city’s flood rule.

The current rule prohibits repairs on homes which over a decade have had flood damage claims surpassing 50 percent of a home’s assessed value. The rule is among the federal government’s considerations in determining flood insurance costs.

The ordinance, filed recently by Metro Council members Angela Leet, Steve Magre, James Peden and others, would change the rule to 50 percent “per incident,” instead of 10 years.

Following a spring flood, the rule kicked in for a couple dozen Louisville homeowners, leaving the residents with unlivable homes.

Magre said he’s going to push for an emergency vote during Thursday night’s meeting. If at least 18 members support the measure, they can discuss it and cast a final vote in the same night.

If not, the measure will move on to the public works committee, Magre said.

The proposed rule would keep the city in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program, which accounts for about 5,000 flood policies in Louisville. Louisville residents who buy insurance under the program get a 30 percent discount because of the city’s current standing in the program, which is determined in part by the city’s flood rules.

Susan Wilson, chief of the Flood Plain Management and Insurance Branch for FEMA Region 4, said the city’s current 10-year rule is part of the city’s current community rating.

“One of the big activities that Louisville-Jefferson County is currently doing and receiving points for are adoptions and enforcement of higher regulatory standards,” Wilson said.

As a result, she said people getting insurance under the program are saving money.

“Currently, there is an average premium savings for property owners in the special flood hazard areas of $428 per year,” Wilson said. “Cumulatively for the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro area, they receive almost $1.7 million worth of premium discounts.”

However, Wilson said she can’t speculate whether changing that rule will change the city’s rating in the future. She said the next audit for the city’s standing in the program will likely be in October, if the city changes its rule sometime before then.

Mayor Greg Fischer recently said he’d prefer the council wait to act until a workgroup he appointed considers the issue. The workgroup met for the first time on Monday.

Magre said he’s not worried his ordinance will have an immense impact on homeowners. He said the federal government would consider “an array” of matters on in an audit, and the review would not be “tied to this one area.”

Also, he said a possible—but not certain—slip in the community rating program would only affect about 5,000 homeowners. That’s out of about 12,500 homeowners currently living in the city’s flood plains.

But Magre said his ordinance would help out some homeowners who are homeless—or living in rough conditions—because of the rule.

“You know the right thing to do here, in terms of what is just, is to be a responsible government branch that helps people in need,” he said. “We need to show compassion.”

Magre said city officials have told him that Louisville would see premium increases between 50 and 70 percent in the National Flood Insurance Program in the next five to seven years regardless of what’s done with the flood rule.