Major repairs to flood-zone homes may trigger code issues

Homeowners with significantly damaged property in a flood zone will be required to make sure their homes fully comply with flood regulations before the city can issue a building permit for repairs, according to FEMA regulations.

Community Development Director Jerry Creel said some property owners may find that their homes had been constructed before standards were in place to govern construction in flood zones.

“Those who are looking to repair heavily damaged homes in a flood zone need to be aware of a few things,” Creel said. “If the damage amounts to more than 50 percent of the fair market value of the home, it’s considered ‘substantially damaged’ by FEMA. This means that in order for a building permit to be issued, the home must be brought into full compliance with the flood ordinance and FEMA regulations.”

A number of homes, particularly older ones in east Biloxi, were built decades ago, before flood-zone regulations existed.

“They had been grandfathered in, but those grandfather clauses will not carry over into major new construction,” Creel said. “One of the biggest issues that property owners will face is that regulations call for structures in flood zones to be elevated one foot above the base flood elevation, which is from 12 to 17 feet above the mean sea level, depending on the location of the property.”

The city cannot allow property owners to re-build in a manner that violates flood plain management regulations, Creel said, noting that the city has waived permit fees for property owners making repairs or rebuilding their homes.

“Failure to comply with the codes will result in significantly higher flood insurance rates for everyone,” Creel said, “and, frankly, insurance rates will end up increasing for all property owners.”

Biloxi residents have seen flood insurance rates drop by 15 percent in the past several years, thanks to the city’s enforcement of flood-zone regulations and its continuing efforts to educate the public about how to minimize the threat of storms and flooding.

In fact, all Biloxi property owners in August were mailed a copy of the city’s flood zone, known as the “100-year Floodplain” in a “Storm and Flood Preparedness” newsletter.

You can see an online map showing flood zones in Biloxi by clicking here.

The flood zone map is also available at the Community Development Department on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard or at the Woolmarket Fire Station on Woolmarket Road.

Need more info?

 To read FEMA’s answers to frequently asked questions about repairing significantly damaged properties in flood zones, click here.

 To read FEMA’s “Homebuilder’s Guide to Coastal Construction,” which provides technical guidance and recommendations concerning the construction of coastal residential, click here.

 Those with other questions can call the Community Development Department at 435-6280 or e-mail