SACRAMENTO, CA - On Aug. 24, 2011, the Taylor family was out shopping, but when they returned home, they found their house in flames from an electrical fire.
The house was nearly destroyed, but they had insurance and the insurance company was ready to pay the some $200,000 price tag to get the home back in shape.
"One of the contractors mentioned that since we were in a flood plain, there might be a little bit of an issue raising our foundation before we could get a permit to rebuild," Jennifer Taylor said.
However, that "little bit of an issue" would have necessitated raising the house some 30 feet to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency standards.
"And because we live in a neighborhood and none of the other homes are raised that high, the city of Sacramento won't give us a building permit to do that, which we really couldn't afford to do anyway," Taylor said.
But because of a FEMA moratorium on building in the Natomas flood plain, if the house wasn't raised up, then the cost of repair could be no more than 50 percent of its value. The some $200,000 estimated for repair was much more than 50 percent of the assessed value of $71,000.
Currently, the insurance company is paying for the family to rent a place.
"But, once they determine we definitely can't rebuild, they're just going to cut us a check that doesn't even cover the mortgage and cut us off from the rent," Taylor explained. "I don't know what we're going to do."
At City Hall, Councilmember Angelique Ashby, who represents part of Natomas, is very aware of the situation.
"There are a dozen or so families in the Natomas basin that need a restoration permit," Ashby said. "We've got to get our way out of this moratorium. It's critical. Not just for the families in these situations, but for the next group of families that could find themselves in this situation."
Ashby would like to see Congress accept the latest Natomas levee report from the Army Corps of Engineers, which shows that half of a billion dollar upgrade to the levees has been accomplished.
"And then, once they do, we need them to give us the allocations over the next five or six years to get us to the one hundred and then two hundred year level of protection," Ashby said.
But that could take at least a year. In the meantime, the Taylors don't know where to turn.
"We're going to still have to pay mortgage on the house," Jennifer Taylor said. "We're going to have to pay taxes on it, trash, sewer and maintain the grass so it's not blight."
By Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org