Home Elevation Grant Program

home elevation
Example of Elevated Home

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) offers financial assistance for implementing hazard mitigation measures following a Presidential major disaster declaration. Although homeowners cannot apply directly for HMGP funding, local governments may sponsor applications on their behalf. The Town of Weymouth has developed the Home Elevation Grant Program to help residents seek HMGP funding when it is available to Massachusetts communities.     

The Home Elevation Grant Program is administered by a multi-department committee of Town staff. Its purpose is to assist eligible residents raise their homes in the 100-year floodplain so the risk for flooding is reduced. Because HMGP funding is both competitive and complex, the Town must make difficult decisions about sponsoring elevation projects. The following criteria have been established, in addition to federal and state requirements, to guide the Town's selection of local elevation projects for consideration in the 2015 grant round:

  • The home must be located in the 100-year floodplain and have an address on Fort Point Road or an intersecting street.
  • The cost to elevate the home must be equal to or less than $175,000. If multiple homes are involved, the average cost of elevation per property must meet this criterion.
  • The home must be capable of being elevated safely to meet FEMA’s requirements as well as the state and local building codes. Generally, this means that homes most be elevated one or two feet above the 100-year Base Flood Elevation (BFE) - i.e., the height that floodwater is expected to rise during a once-in-a-century storm.

The Town will sponsor no more than five homeowners for consideration of federal funding under the HMGP. If more than five elevation projects are proposed, the Town will take into consideration a project’s feasibility, readiness, and consistency with hazard mitigation priorities before deciding which proposals to sponsor. The order in which proposals are received will be only one factor in the Town's decision.        

Residents can click on the links below to download the Home Elevation Grant Program's 2015 application and guidance document. For further information on federal assistance for home elevation, please continue reading. 

What is hazard mitigation?

Hazard mitigation is any action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects. Hazard mitigation projects can be completed by governments, businesses, homeowners, or some combination thereof. One type of project that can be considered for public assistance is home or structure elevation.

Home elevation projects generally involve physically raising a home and its utilities to a higher elevation so floodwater may flow underneath without damaging property. Elevating a home can be achieved through a variety of methods, including lifting the structure on columns, piles, posts, or piers (i.e., open foundations); vertically extending foundation walls; or filling in a basement in order to replace it with an elevated floor. 

Regardless of the method used, homes proposed for elevation must be capable of being elevated safely to meet local and state building codes. Foundations must also be designed to properly address all loads and be appropriately connected to the floor structure above, and utilities must be properly elevated. Generally, elevation projects raise a home one to two feet above the 100-year Base Flood Elevation (BFE), or the height that floodwater is expected to rise during a once-in-a-century storm.

What financial assistance is offered for home elevation projects?

hmgpThe Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a Presidential major disaster declaration. The program supports cost-effective measures that will reduce the risk of physical and social impacts from future disasters. The funding amount is calculated from a percentage of the overall disaster damage. 

HMGP funds are awarded to States, which disburse those funds to local governments. Generally, local governments can sponsor HMGP applications on behalf of homeowners by applying to their State for consideration for FEMA funding. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the State’s principal agent in the HMGP process. 
Because HMGP funding is limited, the State must make difficult decisions as to the most effective use of grant funds. Local projects compete with one another and are ultimately prioritized by the State and, if they meet the program’s requirements, are forwarded to FEMA for review and approval.  

Who pays for the project?

FEMA pays up to 75 percent for home elevation projects. The remaining 25 percent is the responsibility of the homeowner. 

It is important to realize that the HMGP is a reimbursement grant program: funds are reimbursed to the homeowner AFTER he or she has paid for the work. With most HMGP grants, two to four reimbursements are requested during the course of the project. Common expenses that FEMA may pay include:

  • New foundation
  • Physical elevation
  • Basement fills
  • Utility connection
  • Egress per minimum building code
  • Repairs to correct damages caused by elevation activities

Reimbursements require the review and approval of three governments: local, state and federal. This process can take six to eight weeks from the time that the homeowner’s paperwork is received by the Town.

What are the benefits of receiving a 2015 HMGP Home Elevation Grant?

There are multiple benefits of incorporating hazard mitigation measures into your home. Elevation activities, in particular, can have the following advantages:

  • Provide risk reduction from natural disasters
  • Increase the strength of your home to withstand severe weather
  • Reduce the hours of human intervention needed to prepare your home for severe weather
  • May lower your flood insurance rate due to risk reduction
  • May increase your property’s value due to all the above

What are the costs to consider for receiving a 2015 HMGP Home Elevation Grant?

As conditions of receiving a grant, FEMA requires homeowners to agree to the following:

  • Pay 25 percent of the cost of the work for elevation activities. If the cost exceeds the amount of the grant, the homeowner is responsible for paying the overrun
  • Flood insurance must be maintained on the property by the homeowner and all subsequent owners as long as the house is standing. The homeowner must sign an agreement called an Acknowledgement of Requirement to Maintain Flood Insurance, which must be recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.
  • Do NOT start work on your home until receiving notification from State and Town contacts. FEMA does not reimburse costs for work already started or completed prior to FEMA review and approval. Notification of an HMGP award may take six to eight months or longer from the time applications are submitted to FEMA by the State. Even after an announcement of an award, no work may begin until FEMA approves the homeowner’s building permit and construction plans. This process can take another six to eight weeks.
  • The contractor must NOT add to or deviate from the homeowner’s FEMA approved plans. Changes CAN result in a homeowner losing all of his or her grant fundsAny change in plans or scope of work must be reviewed and approved by FEMA first, before the contractor executes the change. This process can take six to eight weeks for each change request.     
  • Keep good records of payments to contractor(s) and work progress to satisfy FEMA’s requirements for reimbursement and reporting. FEMA requires grant recipients to complete quarterly financial and performance reports. Each homeowner will be expected to work with his or her contractor to respond to information requests. Reimbursements may require a building inspection, paid and/signed invoices, copies of paid checks, and other similar documentation.                 

What is the process for applying for a 2015 HMGP Home Elevation Grant?

  • Decision to Apply to the HMGP. Applying for HMGP funding is voluntary. Homeowners should consider the costs of applying for and receiving an HMGP Home Elevation Grant, if successful.
  • Application Development. The Town must receive the following items prior to the homeowner requesting funds for an elevation project:
  • A completed and notarized Resident Application for the 2015 Home Elevation Grant Program.
  • Estimates from at least three contractors based on the plans. Estimates must be detailed with a breakdown by tasks, the contractor’s overhead/profit, and sub-bids for the foundation contractor, building mover if required, plumber and/or electrician, carpenter and any other subcontractors. Any contractor working on a FEMA-funded elevation project must have all licenses required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To comply with federal and state procurements laws, the applicant will be expected to accept the lowest of the three estimates in the event that a grant is awarded. 

IMPORTANT - The Town should review your plans BEFORE you seek estimates to confirm that the project is feasible and consistent with Conservation regulations/conditions. 

  • A scope of work (i.e., narrative) prepared with your general contractor detailing the flood zone in which the property is located, the base flood elevation, the current elevation, the proposed elevation, and the method of elevation to be used.
  • An Elevation Certificate prepared and stamped by a licensed surveyor showing the current height of the property that you propose to elevate.
  • A current Declaration Page from your homeowner's flood insurance policy, confirming your participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Town Review. The Town will review the applicant’s paperwork for eligibility and completeness; make sure all costs are appropriate and plans are suitable for obtaining a building permit; and confirm that HMGP requirements are met by the project.
  • State Review. The Town prepares and submits a comprehensive HMGP application on behalf of homeowners to the State. MEMA prioritizes all local government applications, which are forwarded to FEMA for consideration if they meet the program’s requirements.
  • FEMA Review. FEMA reviews the submitted applications for eligibility, cost-effectiveness, feasibility, and any environmental regulations that may impact the project. Applications that meet these program requirements and are consistent with local, state, and/or national hazard mitigation priorities may be approved based on funding availability. Please note that there is never a guarantee that FEMA will approve any application for funding.

Does the Government have any other mitigation resources?

FEMA has two additional Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant programs besides the HMGP: the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Program. Generally, these programs are made available annually with funding from Congress rather than following a disaster event, but they have the same common goal of protecting life and property.

The FMA and PDM programs have different eligibility and programmatic requirements. They are also nationally competitive programs in which projects supporting communities and homeowners are submitted from across the country and compete against one another for funding. Past grant rounds indicate that FMA and PDM funds are rarely awarded for elevation projects unless the home to be elevated is classified by FEMA as a Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) structure - i.e., generally a home that has experienced a high frequency of losses or a high value of claims due to severe weather or flooding.

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