Most Austinites with flood insurance will soon have up to a 25% discount on their policies following a ratings upgrade by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And city officials continue to push to improve flooding mitigation and resident assistance efforts.

What happened

Austin's score in FEMA's Community Rating System—a voluntary program offering flood insurance discounts in cities with improved flood management practices—was upgraded from six to five on May 29. FEMA's system offers community-wide insurance discounts ranging from 5%-45%.

The new rating means that Austin flood insurance policies issued or renewed after Oct. 1 will be eligible for a 25% discount, an increase from the 20% under the city's previous rating.

"According to FEMA, the new flood insurance discounts are a tangible result of Austin’s flood mitigation activities to protect lives and reduce property damage. In making their determination, FEMA looked at a wide range of activities such as floodplain mapping, preserving open space, stormwater management and higher regulatory standards," a June 7 Watershed Protection Department release stated.

Austin has about 8,000 flood insurance policies now in place covering an estimated $1.95 billion in losses, according to the department. Austin has participated in FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program since the 1970s.

The city encourages homeowners, renters and business owners to look into flood coverage as it's not included in typical home or renter insurance plans.

A closer look

News of the city's upgraded FEMA status came as city officials formally pushed to expand flood mitigation measures and reduce flooding-related cost burdens for residents.

Those actions and more were requested in a resolution from council member Vanessa Fuentes approved May 30.

"This is a huge issue for our community and one that is top of mind for us Austinites as we know we are in Flash Flood Alley," Fuentes said. "As we know disasters are increasing, it’s important that we strengthen and become a more resilient community. And this item looks at offsetting costs for flood insurance as well as a number of other outreach efforts and initiatives to help us mitigate the risk and help our community better prepare.”

Now, city staff will work to:
  • Further improve Austin's Community Rating System classification
  • Find ways the city can support residents' flood insurance premiums, including the launch of a new program to help low-income homeowners get insured
  • Explore financial relief options such as deductible sharing, insurance vouchers or other subsidies
  • Continue public education campaigns on flooding risks, insurance and available home repair programs
  • Set up new flood warning and drainage systems for flood preparedness
The action comes after council asked last spring to find more ways to connect affected residents with local, state and federal supports after major storms and floods.

What they're saying

Several Austinites at council's May 30 session testified on the need for the city to keep focusing on resident support and other flooding efforts.

“We need a plan of financial assistance to obtain full flood insurance to help our community in case of a flood, also to help us with city resources when they’re available to recover when we face any natural disaster because we need to recover," said Enedina Sanchez, speaking through a translator. "I live in the area of Dove Springs and this is a flooding zone. My husband and I are retired, our income is very limited, it’s not enough. All prices have increased, food has increase, utilities, taxes, electricity. It’s very difficult for us, this situation."