Later this month (on September 30), the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to expire. This is the largest insurance plan for floods in the country, and realtors are sounding the alarm bells.
The National Flood Insurance Program was established in 1968 to protect homeowners as private flood insurance became more expensive and less available (especially in flood-prone areas). The program provides coverage to homeowners, businesses, and renters in high-risk zones for flooding. It also works with communities across the nation to reduce the risk of flooding.
Regular homeowner insurance does not cover floods, so for most Americans, the NFIP is the only source of flood insurance.
But since 1968, things have changed. Flooding risks have increased so dramatically that most flood maps are outdated. Cities are becoming more flood prone as climate change takes over. Ironically, the NFIP has wobbled at a time when it should have put up with changing realities. The program has faced years of criticism amid claims that it provided lousy customer service while accumulating over $25 billion in debts. The program is losing about $1 billion annually, and some lawmakers are pushing for reforms.
Past storm victims who filed claims have complained about being shortchanged and being made to feel like they are criminals.
The Impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Flood Insurance Debate
Now the country is grappling with consequences of the largest flooding event in modern U.S history. Hurricane Harvey has already affected millions of people in Texas, and is expected to afflict at least $30 billion worth of damages on homeowners. As of last week, at least 35,000 claims had been lodged to the National Flood Insurance Program from Texas, and as many as 65,000 more are expected over the next few days and weeks.
Evidently, the September 30 reauthorization deadline for the national flood insurance program is a threat to consumers. Flooding disasters have become more common rather than rare, and realtors have re-awakened to the importance of this program. Many believe that its expiry would deal a significant blow to existing policy-holding property owners, even threatening property sales and the larger housing market.
There’s every expectation that Hurricane Harvey will spur congress to act on flood insurance.
…And Now Irma
And just when most of us thought Harvey was too much, Florida and Puerto Rico are having to deal with the prospect of facing a strom of their own. On Monday 4th this week, Irma was declared a category 4 storm. Although the hurricane’s path remains uncertain at this point in time, there’s a risk it could threaten the United States. This has led Florida Governor Rick Stott to declare a state of emergency within all the 67 counties in his state. Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello also declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
Climate Change is Triggering Disastrous Storms
Experts say there are many ways in which climate change will continue to make storms such as Harvey and Irma more disastrous. Think about how a full gasoline can in the basemen would make a house fire much worse. In the foreseable future, scientists precict that climate change will increase the number of heavy precipitation events. Future rainstorms can be expected to be more severe, and flooding will be more common than it is now. As ocean tempeartures are increasing, the warm water is helping make hurricanes stronger, and rising sea levels are increasing the likelihood of flooding in coastal regions.
The Future of Flood Insurance
Tom Bossert, a homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, has said that the National Flood Insurance Program has at least enough money to immediately cater for Harvey claims. Mr. Bossert also said that he is confident lawmakers will reauthorize the program, as well as find ways to seal loopholes within its operation.
With the kind of uncertainty that has surrounded flood insurance at this point in time, many homeowners have realized the need to get their property covered.
Some homeowners who encountered damage in Houston said they did not know their homes could flood. An congress-revised NFIP could take measures to ensure that such risk information is available to potential property owners. Federal law requires that homes within flood-risk areas have flood insurance before mortgages can be completed. Congress must also find out why such a tiny percentage of American homeowners are insured against the risk of floods.