Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

On March 24th, HUD published a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register, which would better protect communities and taxpayer-funded investments from flooding. HUD is soliciting public comment on the proposed rule until May 23rd. This Rule would amend HUD’s existing floodplain regulations to require a greater level of flood protection for new construction and substantial rehabilitation projects. Building to this standard would increase the Nation’s resilience to flooding, reduce the risk of flood loss, and minimize the impact of floods on households across the country.

Background

Flooding poses a significant risk to people’s homes, federal investments, and most importantly people’s lives. It can affect all areas within the United States; from 1996-2019, 99 percent of U.S. counties were impacted by a flooding event. Flooding is also costly: in the last ten years, there have been 17 flooding events costing over one billion dollars, resulting in over 60 billion dollars in damages. In total during the last ten years, there have been 160 such “billion-dollar events” across all disaster types.

Following the extreme flooding of Hurricane Sandy and similar events, Executive Order (E.O.) 13690, was signed in January 2015. This E.O. established for the first time a flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects, through the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). The FFRMS was established to encourage federal agencies to consider and manage current and future flood risks in order to build a more resilient nation. The E.O. amends and builds upon E.O. 11988 Floodplain Management.

Shortly after E.O. 13690 was signed, HUD began developing a rule to amend its floodplain regulations to implement the FFRMS and published the draft rule in October 2016. In 2017, E.O. 13690 was rescinded, and HUD withdrew its proposed rule.

In May 2021, E.O. 14030 Climate-Related Financial Risk reinstated E.O. 13690. As a result, federal agencies must now review and update, as needed, their policies, regulations, and procedures to account for the reinstated FFRMS. Accordingly, HUD is reinitiating its rulemaking process to develop a rule revising its floodplain management regulations in 24 CFR Part 55 to ensure they are consistent with E.O.s 13690 and 14030 and implement the FFRMS. The rule would also make improvements to a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Categorical Exclusion, allow for public notices to be published online, and make improvements to the FHA Minimum Property Standards.

The proposed rule affects projects receiving HUD assistance, financing, or insurance. The rule would establish that, when possible, a Climate Informed Science Approach (CISA) should be used to determine the FFRMS floodplain, which involves utilizing the best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data. Where this data is unavailable, the rule provides for an alternate approach to determine the FFRMS floodplain. HUD also anticipates that over time, additional data will increase the CISA capability nationwide.

The Proposed Rule

This proposed rule would expand the floodplain of concern to include the “FFRMS floodplain.” The FFRMS floodplain expands the floodplain of concern (currently the 100-year floodplain) both vertically (based on projections of increased flood height) and horizontally (to reflect the vertical increase depending on the topography of a site).

This proposed rule would require that newly constructed or substantially improved structures be elevated or floodproofed to the FFRMS floodplain elevation. Additionally, projects within the FFRMS floodplain would be required to complete the 8-Step Process unless excepted under 24 CFR 55.12 or 55.13 or permitted to complete an abbreviated 5-step process under 24 CFR 55.14. This process is a well-known that is already required for projects subject to Part 55 of HUD’s floodplain regulations.

This proposed rule would also revise HUD’s Minimum Property Standards for one- to four-unit family housing under the FHA mortgage insurance program (which are not subject to Part 55) and low-rent public housing programs to require that the lowest floor in both newly constructed and substantially improved structures under these programs be built at least two feet above the 100-year floodplain. The rule would not, however, require consideration of the horizontally expanded FFRMS floodplain under the Minimum Property Standards.

This proposed rule would not change the requirements and guidance specifying which actions subject to Part 55 require elevation or floodproofing. Rather, this proposed rule would only expand the areas in which these requirements would apply and update instructions on completing the 8-Step Process to foster better analysis and improve overall climate resilience in HUD-assisted projects.

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Content current as of March 13, 2024.