One of the greatest issues we face is that weather patterns are changing. This severely affects the way in which our houses, our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our entire nation have to deal with such dramatic and immediate changes. This is not just a societal issue, it is a national security issue.
The weather and infrastructure may seem like separate issues, but they’re well connected. If our roads and railroads, for example, are not adequate in times of emergency, large sections of the population will be in even greater danger from the floods and hurricanes that we know will be coming.
Something needs to be done to defenseless areas to mitigate problems caused by severe weather events; many of these problems were exposed by Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Maria in Puerto Rico.
An egregious example of how we have created our own problems is that we have allowed developers to build entire neighborhoods in known floodplains - in Houston, Texas, for example. About 90 percent of all natural disasters in the United States involve flooding, so most insurers no longer offer flood insurance because it is not profitable. As a result, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was introduced in 1968 to provide flood insurance to communities that otherwise might not be able to purchase such insurance.
The majority of the NFIP’s 5.5 million policyholders are in Texas and Florida, the very states that were pummeled by hurricanes in 2017 and two of the states that are most vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Before these hurricanes, the NFIP was already over $24 billion in debt, due in part to bad management and ill-conceived policies.
The NFIP debt is taxpayer money, so we’re subsidizing people to build in areas that we know will flood and will need to be bailed out. That’s crazy! In fact, just one percent of insured properties account for up to 30 percent of the claims and represent more than half the $24 billion debt, meaning that some properties flood multiple times and are constantly rebuilt, with our government knowing they will flood again.
More than 30,000 properties flood an average of five times every two to three years, and some properties have flooded more than 30 times. One home valued at $69,000 in California flooded 34 times in 32 years. Yet, after every flood, the NFIP rebuilt the property, spending nearly 10 times the property’s value.
What’s more, the average home that’s flooded has a value of about $110,000 but suffers over $133,000 in flood damages - and many of these homes are rebuilt multiple times. A significant number of these homes are also vacation homes, meaning that money to help rebuild primary homes for the less wealthy is potentially being diverted. It would often be less expensive to purchase a new home in a different location than to keep rebuilding in the same location.
We know the dangers and the expenses of living in flood zones, but little is done to help people move out of them. Apart from the insane policy of rebuilding over and over again, less than two percent of the money spent on rebuilding is spent on helping people move to safer locations. Unlike a nation such as the Netherlands - much of which is below sea level but which has not experienced a major flood since 1953 - we spend more money responding to floods than preventing them.
To make matters worse - or better, if you’re covered by NFIP - is the fact that the insurance policies don’t increase in price, even after multiple claims for the same property. When efforts are made to increase the rates, there is a huge cry from those whose premiums would increase because they rebuild so often. Meanwhile, we the taxpayers are footing the bill and literally encouraging people to build and rebuild in places that are not sustainable for housing.