Bipartisan Bill Offers Solutions for Flood-Prone Properties
Bipartisan legislation introduced last week by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act (H.R. 6196), would take a much needed step toward confronting the problem of continually subsidizing the rebuilding of flood-prone properties through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The legislation seeks to achieve similar goals as outlined in NRDC’s platform for flood insurance reforms.
The proposed legislation would require communities covered by the NFIP to analyze and map areas repeatedly damaged by floods, develop a community-specific plan to address ongoing flood risks (this could include a voluntary buyout plan, relocating buildings, or elevating properties on pilings), and make the plan available for public comment and community input.
This legislation presents some good ideas for breaking the cycle of flooding and rebuilding, an unsustainable, yet entirely preventable, pattern miring tens of thousands of properties in the United States. To provide a clearer idea of how bad of a bad habit this is, check out the price tag of unchecked financing of repeated losses in our blog entitled Flood, Rebuild, Repeat: the need for flood insurance reforms.
Severe repetitive loss properties, properties that have been damaged multiple times by floods, represent a disproportionate burden on the NFIP, which is now $23 billion in debt. Despite only representing 0.60% of the five million homes in the program, severe repetitive loss properties have received 10.6% ($5.5 billion dollars) of all flood insurance claims since 1978, an average of $181,444 paid over the life of each property. Nearly half (13,499) of these properties have been paid more in flood insurance money than the value of the property itself.
How the nation prepares for flood risk, especially in the face of increasingly extreme weather due to climate change, is of major importance to safeguarding our frontline communities, not to mention saving taxpayer dollars. Aligned with this bipartisan effort, NRDC has laid out five climate-smart actions to reform flood insurance, which include increasing accountability and enforcement, establishing risk-based insurance rates, strengthening mandatory provisions for mitigating flood risk, and guaranteeing assistance to low-income property owners. Representatives Royce and Blumenauer have put some other good ideas on the table for Congress to consider as it debates flood insurance reforms in 2017.
Rachel Mickelson contributed to this post.