Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS)

On October 28, 2016, HUD published a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register to better protect communities and taxpayer-funded investments from flooding. HUD is soliciting public comment until December 27, 2016. 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

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force announced in April 2013 that all Federally-funded Sandy-related rebuilding projects must meet a consistent flood risk reduction standard that takes into account risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change. In his Climate Action Plan, the President called on Federal agencies to scale this up nation-wide. The President reiterated this call on January 30, 2015, when he signed Executive Order 13690, which amended Executive Order 11988 (which was issued in 1977). Consistent with the President’s direction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as Chair of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group, published for public comment in the Federal Register Draft Guidelines to provide guidance to agencies on the implementation of Executive Orders 13690 and 11988 (80 FR 6530). The public comment period extended to 90 days, during which FEMA and other members of the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group held eight in-person public listening sessions across the country and one public webinar, to ensure input from stakeholders and the public. Last year, FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and HUD produced fact sheets in response to several frequently asked questions regarding the intended scope of the President’s Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) and the anticipated impacts to many of the programs of these agencies.

Now, HUD is issuing a proposed rule revising HUD’s regulations in 24 CFR Part 55 governing floodplain management to comply with Executive Order 13690 and implement the FFRMS. The proposed rule affects projects receiving HUD assistance, financing, or insurance that involve new construction or substantial improvement. It would require that these projects be elevated two feet above the base flood elevation and that “critical actions,” such as hospitals, be elevated further. This proposed revision to HUD’s floodplain regulations uses an existing framework which HUD has implemented for nearly four decades and does not change which actions require elevation and flood-proofing of structures.

Changes in Proposed Rule

This proposed rule would expand the floodplain to include the “FFRMS floodplain” (see Figure 1, below). For non-critical actions, the FFRMS floodplain would be defined as areas less than two feet above the 100-year floodplain. For critical actions, the FFRMS floodplain is either the 500-year floodplain or areas less than three feet above the 100-year floodplain, whichever is greater. The FFRMS floodplain expands the floodplain of concern (currently the 100-year floodplain) both vertically (two to three feet above base flood elevation) and horizontally (to reflect the vertical increase depending on the topography of a site).

This 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.

Finally, this rule would revise HUD’s Minimum Property Standards for one- to four-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 be built at least two feet above the 100-year floodplain. The rule would notrequire consideration of the horizontally expanded FFRMS floodplain for properties processed under the Minimum Property Standards.

This proposed rule would not change the scope of projects or activities that would require completing the 8-Step Decisionmaking Process to evaluate the practicability of the project, nor would it change the requirements and guidance specifying which actions subject to Part 55 require elevation or floodproofing. Rather, this rule would only expand the areas in which these requirements would apply.


Resources

FFRMS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This document contains frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). Topics addressed in the FAQs include elevation (freeboard) requirements, environmental review requirements, floodplain boundaries, and the structures and programs that will be affected by the rule.