Route Fifty: Disaster-Prone Cities Urge Congress to Expand National Flood Insurance Program

Featured below is an excerpt from Route Fifty:

The 100 Resilient Cities network released a series of policy proposals on Wednesday for expanding the National Flood Insurance Program on the heels of an “unprecedented” hurricane season.

Four major hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. this year, and NFIP authorization is set to expire in December—to the detriment of flood-prone cities attempting to prepare for future disasters.

NFIP aids cities in mitigating flood risk while financing homeowners’ and businesses’ rebuilds post-disaster.

“The terrible human suffering and economic damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria make apparent the immediate need to focus on future-proofing communities and protecting low- and moderate-income residents who are most vulnerable to flooding and other extreme weather events,” said Marion McFadden, Enterprise Community Partners’ vice president of public policy, in the announcement. “These recommendations strike the right balance by increasing hazard mitigation measures and reforming delivery of the nation’s flood insurance to ensure both fiscally sound operations and affordability.”

Mayors and flood experts were consulted in partnership with ECP and the Georgetown Climate Center while crafting the proposals for Congress, which is considering NFIP reform. As of July 2016, the program was $24 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury, underused by homeowners and reliant upon outdated floodplain maps in setting rates that price vulnerable people out of coverage.

More than 20 U.S. cities in the 100RC network are susceptible to coastal and stormwater flooding, like Miami, New Orleans, Norfolk and New York City.

Strategies include maintaining insurance affordability while providing accurate risk-based price signals, funding and incentivizing flood mitigation programs, maintaining up-to-date flood risk and future conditions data, and increasing NFIP participation.

The first could be accomplished if the Federal Emergency Management Agency was given the authority to offer vouchers for low- and moderate-income families to reduce their flood losses and qualify them for lower insurance premiums. Hard-to-retrofit buildings could receive special assistance.