In March 2015 we made a presentation at our membership meeting on proposed changes to the flood zone maps for Delray Beach.  After several delays, the  new maps  were adopted in October 2017. In 2019, the City’s flood insurance rating was upgraded from 8 to 7, which translates to a 15% flood premium savings for residents.

Under this program that was initiated in1968, property owners can purchase insurance for their homes up to a maximum of $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for the contents.  The rate each homeowner pays is dependent on the flooding risk, which in our coastal community, is directly related to the elevation of the lowest finished floor (and major equipment such as a/c units, water heaters, etc.) The most recent Flood Insurance Rate maps were adopted in October, 2017 to designate the level of risk, which in turn determines the cost of insurance.

In simplified terms, in Delray Beach most of the insured structures currently fall into two major designations corresponding to low and high risks of flooding:

Zone X – A low risk and is defined as having only a 0.2 percent chance of flooding in any given year.  Low risk is a relative term that should not be thought of as no risk at all.  Low risk should be conservatively thought of as just lower risk.

Zone AE – A high risk zone and is also called a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).  High risk zones have at least a 1 percent risk of flooding in a given year.  In our beach area Zone AE homes are generally closer to the low elevation Intracoastal Waterway basin, but can go east all the way to A1A in some neighborhoods.

The difference of insurance costs between homes in Zone X and Zone AE can be very significant, depending on the specific elevation of those in an AE Zone (see examples below).  Homes in AE zones are also required to have flood insurance if they have a mortgage through a federally regulated or insured lender (just about all non-private mortgages).  Homes in Zone X are encouraged to have flood insurance even though most bank mortgages do not require the coverage.  Please keep in mind that flooding inside of a home of just 1-2 inches can easily cause several tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of damage to floors, walls, fixtures, furniture, equipment, and appliances.

Example Flood Insurance Rates 

Flood insurance is a Federal Program and so all rates are the same regardless of which insurance agent you use to secure your flood policy.  We interviewed a local insurance agency in 2016 and received the rates below from them.

As a representative example, a beach area home in the low risk Zone X can be insured for $250,000 for the low rate of $414 per year (with a $1,000 deductible).  Homes in the high risk Zone AE will have annual flood insurance costs for the same $250,000 policy ranging from $519 to $1,594 depending on their elevation.  FEMA in its current maps defines a Base Flood Elevation of 7 feet as a reference line (BFE=7).  Homes whose finished lowest floor elevation is considerably higher than 7 feet, and are therefore less flood prone, will have premiums 1/3 as expensive as homes that just meet the BFE=7 feet requirement.  On the other hand, homes with elevations below 7 feet are even more prone to flooding and have flood insurance premiums many times higher.  For the $250,000 coverage mentioned above, premiums for different finished floor elevations in high risk Zone AE are as follows:

Lowest Finished Floor Elevation   7 Feet                    Premium   $1,594
Lowest Finished Floor Elevation   8 Feet                    Premium   $   869
Lowest Finished Floor Elevation   9 Feet                    Premium   $   625
Lowest Finished Floor Elevation 10 Feet                    Premium   $   553
Lowest Finished Floor Elevation 11 Feet                    Premium   $   519

Older homes built before tougher elevation standards were imposed by the National Flood Insurance Program may be located below the FEMA BFE=7 feet current requirement.  These homes have insurance premiums that are considerably higher:

Lowest Finished Floor Elevation 6 Feet                      Premium   $5,530
Lowest Finished Floor Elevation 5 Feet                      Premium   $6,317

As can be seen from the numbers above, there are major discounts for higher elevation homes and catastrophic penalties for homes built below the Base Flood Elevation of 7 feet.  City of Delray Beach building codes have a minimum elevation requirement that is equal to that same FEMA BFE=7 feet.

To add further to the confusion, the elevations used above are based on the NGVD1929 elevation standard.  This standard is being phased out and is being replaced by the NAVD1988 standard elevation measurement system.  The BFE=7 feet NGVD1929 elevation used above is equal to approximately 5.5 feet using the NAVD1988 elevation standard.  The most current maps have the Base Floor Elevation raised from 5.5 feet to 6.0 feet NAVD1988.  Homeowners who have a survey for their homes should look carefully in the survey notes or legend to see which standard, NGVD1929 or NAVD1988, was used by their survey company.  An error of designation could result in thousands of dollars difference in annual flood insurance premiums.

Community Rating System

Each community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program can also qualify for a discount applicable uniformly to all its insured properties under a program called the Community Rating System (CRS).  The level of discount is determined by how well that community reduces its risk using 18 different activities grouped under four categories: Public Information, Mapping and Regulation, Flood Damage Reduction, and Flood Preparedness.  The CRS scoring system ranges from “10” with no discount at all, to “1” with a discount of 45%.  Delray Beach was recently upgraded from a score of “8” to a score of “7” with a 15% discount, resulting in an additional 5% savings to residents. The BPOA is currently working with a newly-initiated citizens volunteer Rising Waters Task Force and city staff to improve the city’s CRS score and achieve lower flood insurance rates for all insured structures in Delray Beach. This improved CRS score is a result of both BPOA outreach education and City efforts to inform the community about flood insurance.