Shore towns throughout New Jersey urge their residents to elevate their homes in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. West Wildwood, a borough of Cape May County, fears the tax base will diminish as people expect insurance premiums to become unaffordable and therefore relocate elsewhere. According to preliminary estimates, “the state Department of Treasury shows the tax rolls at the shore lost $4.3 billion in ratables from Sandy.” As FEMA prepares to release updated flood maps, speculation stirs the fears for the future. A preliminary update to the FEMA flood maps placed “95 percent of West Wildwood’s 900 homes in a hazardous zone called a V-zone.” Prior to Superstorm Sandy the entire borough categorized as the less volatile A-zone.
New premiums are expected as FEMA begins to implement new criteria. For instance, a home four feet below base flood elevation will have a premium of $10,700 per year. Whereas, a home at four feet above the base flood elevations would receive a premium of $500. Moreover, Cape May county consists of a large population of low-income and elderly residents who cannot afford the expenses of elevating their homes. Cape May County Freehold Director, Jerry Thornton, “envisions older shore homes not built at the new elevations losing so much value that wealthy buyers can purchase three of them, tear them down, and build one big new house.”