August 19, 2021

City on Fast Track to Restoring CRS Classification

As you may have heard this week, unfortunately the City recently lost its status as a participant in the Community Rating System (CRS) of the National Flood Insurance Program.  Not because anything has changed with respect to our actual flood risk profile, but because of the City’s failure to timely file the required paperwork with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the program.  Effective October 1, our CRS classification will be downgraded from 7 to 10, thus eliminating—temporarily—the discounts we currently enjoy on our flood insurance premiums.  (For the majority of Bellaire, in flood Zone AE, that discount is 15%; for those in Zone X with standard policies it’s 5% because they already pay lower premiums.)

From the time the City was notified of the problem staff have been working diligently, and in close coordination with FEMA, on a plan to solve it.  They’ve made some good progress.  First, FEMA has approved fast-tracking our reclassification to a 9, which will result in a partial restoration of the discount, to 5% across the board, on flood policies that come up for renewal beginning April 1 of next year.  Beyond that, FEMA is allowing the City an opportunity to further improve our classification—back to 7 or perhaps lower—by next October, instead of having to start from scratch and rejoining the CRS anew.  This at least limits the damage in the near term, and potentially even puts us in a better position moving forward than where we started.

So how much will this screwup cost policyholders in the coming year?  It depends.  Those in Zone X who renew after April 1 won’t see any change at all.  For the rest of us, it’s hard to say because there are some other moving pieces as well.  Separate and apart from our (or any city’s) CRS classification, FEMA is currently implementing a new, more actuarially sophisticated methodology for calculating flood insurance premiums.  Risk Rating 2.0 takes a more individualized approach, looking at the actual flood risk variables unique to each property rather than just applying the same blanket characteristics across the entire flood zone.  It’s being phased in this year, also in October and April, and will additionally affect the premiums Bellaire policyholders will pay.  Many could see their premiums go down.

Suffice it to say, no one is happy we find ourselves in this situation, regardless of the ultimate outcome.  It’s embarrassing, and falls way short of the level of service and professionalism to which the City holds itself, and that we as residents and other stakeholders rightly expect.  But staff have taken ownership of the mistake and are fixing it.  They’ve made organizational changes, including personnel action, and are devoting the time and resources necessary to restore our CRS status and possibly even improve on it.

The City has published information about this issue on our website, and has this week communicated with residents through Notify Me and on social media to raise awareness.  The matter was also discussed at City Council this past Monday, should you wish to view the video of the meeting for more detail.  Please do not hesitate to reach out with any specific questions or concerns you may have, by e-mail to bellairecrs@bellairetx.gov.  We’ll continue to provide updates to the community as ongoing efforts progress.