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Top housing trade groups urge Congress to reform flood insurance

by Lauren Brocato

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This week, more than 20 top housing trade groups urged Congress to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which is set to expire on July 31, according to a story from HousingWire. Along with reauthorization, the act is due for a major reform, as it is not nearly adequate enough to protect Americans against the most common and costly natural disaster in the country.

Congress passed the 21st Century Flood Reform, Act H.R. 2874, aiming to reauthorize and reform the NFIP, but that move fell short of the policy’s needs.

A lapse in the NFIP during the height of hurricane season will leave millions of households at risk in over 20,000 communities and will likely disrupt the sale of 40,000 homes per month, according to a letter sent to Congress. A lapse in the NFIP will also halt the recovery efforts in places recently struck by catastrophe such as Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Congress has failed to invest in essential research such as accurate flood risk maps, leaving many Federal Emergency Management Agency maps severely outdated. Insufficient funding and subsidized flood insurance premiums have left Americans blinded to the risks of flooding and has substantially blunted incentives to reduce those risks through flood insurance. The current plan in place promotes the immersion of private flood insurance at the expense of weakening the NFIP. If both sectors compete rather than working side-by-side, fewer Americans will have access to robust coverage.

But, as hurricane season creeps up and climate change becomes a pressing issue, immediate reauthorization by Congress is not nearly enough. The NFIP is long overdue for reform in many aspects as many Americans depend on its coverage. To ensure that all at-risk homes are protected, it is time for Congress to step up and design a long-term plan that will benefit both private insurance companies as well as at-risk residents.

The Union of Concerned Scientists identified a few ways that Congress can fix the NFIP:

  • Updating flood risk maps nationwide
  • Phasing in risk-based insurance premiums and expand the number of people carrying insurance
  • Addressing affordability consideration for low and moderate-income households
  • Providing more resources for homeowners and communities to invest in reducing their flood risks ahead of disasters
  • Ensuring that the private sector flood insurance market complements the NFIP without undermining it

“Americans deserve certainty and stability in the flood insurance marketplace to be able to protect their homes and loved ones,” noted by groups such as the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Home Builders and the American Bankers Association in a letter to Congress titled National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization.

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