Homeowners cannot appeal the velocity zone designation listed in the advisory flood maps adopted by the state last month as the rebuilding standard, but homeowners will have an opportunity to appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency once maps are formally proposed later this year.

And homeowners can live in their houses that were substantially damaged from Hurricane Sandy for as long as four years while they make plans to elevate the structure, provided they do construction to make the house habitable.

In what is the first large-scale attempt to answer questions, the Department of Environmental Protection released Monday a three-page explanation for what new advisory flood maps mean and how the state’s adoption of the maps affect those homeowners trying to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Velocity zones and habitability were among the 16 topics covered in the document, which is now posted on the agency’s website.

The standards, adopted Jan. 24 in an order by Gov. Chris Christie, apply only to those homeowners whose properties suffered damage that equals or exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building. One of the most stressed sentences in the explanation released Monday is that property owners whose damage from Sandy did not meet the threshold do not need to do anything regarding elevation.

Local building officials ultimately make that determination, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said, and those officials also are charged with determining whether a structure is habitable.

The explanation stresses that the advisory maps do not affect current flood insurance rates and that any increases that property owners are seeing is related to a congressional effort to make the deeply indebted National Flood Insurance Program stronger financially and, thus, are not under the state’s control. However, when new flood insurance rate maps are finalized, likely within two years, those whose houses have base flood elevations lower than the maps require will see a substantial increase in flood insurance if they don’t raise the homes.

The Christie administration will announce sometime this spring plans to provide grants for homeowners whose houses suffered storm damage that meets or exceeds the 50 percent value threshold, according to the explanation of how those grants will be administered.

Contact Sarah Watson:


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