End Federal Flood Insurance – NYTimes.com
We should phase out the program, begin thinking strategically about how to shift populations away from the most risky coastal areas, and use the best available science to update the woefully out-of-date coastal-zone risk profiles that government agencies currently rely on to determine danger. We also need to encourage more stringent building codes that take into account the full range of climate risks. (Officials in New York and New Jersey this week estimated the overall costs of Hurricane Sandy in the two states at a combined $72 billion.)
Two major reinsurers, Munich Re and Swiss Re, have strict building codes for policies in coastal areas and will not insure properties in high-risk zones. Florida now self-insures for hurricane wind damage, and has the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund for insurers whose funds are exhausted. The program is financed by a surcharge on all homeowner and commercial insurance policies, but because of the potential for huge liabilities in a future storm, the program might fall short of the money it would need.
We do not underestimate the complexity and political difficulty of phasing out a popular program like national flood insurance, nor do we think the government should abandon people who are currently insured. But Congress and the president should challenge the status quo and make some tough decisions, like providing subsidies or buyouts to encourage people to move out of the most disaster-prone areas, and eliminating other government incentives that support living in high-risk areas.
Some Americans want to live as close to their beloved coasts as they can, but coastal landowners should pay the full cost of living in these dangerous areas. In this climate-constrained world our quality of life will take some hits. But with careful planning and a gradual shift away from the coast, Americans can still enjoy the beauty and live safely, yet escape the cycle of catastrophe and response, in which so much money is expended on properties that are repeatedly flooded.