The images of sunken cars, water-soaked homes and submerged streets in the aftermath of hurricanes in Florida and Texas should be enough to convince politicians to finally address the issue of flood insurance.
Millions who need coverage don’t have it or can’t afford it. It’s an old problem in states like ours, and it’s time to fix it – past time, really.
Private and federal aid is pouring in to the parts of Florida and Texas that were battered by hurricanes Irma and Harvey, but for many that won’t be enough. Home insurance doesn’t cover damage from floods, and that left an estimated 85 percent of people whose homes were destroyed in Houston to face financial calamity because they don’t have the coverage.
Across Florida’s coastal counties, only 42 percent of homeowners carry flood insurance – and that number likely would lower if they weren’t required by law in some cases to purchase the protection.
With damage in the billions of dollars, people without proper insurance have few options. Many will be forced to declare bankruptcy.
So, what to do?
The biggest knock against flood insurance is that it is too expensive, so helping craft a bipartisan solution that brings down the cost while keeping coverage is simply the right to do for Americans.
Second, and more ominously, scientists warn that storms like Irma and Harvey will be firing up with increasing deadly strength and frequency due to climate change. Kicking the can down the road on tough issues is a favorite pastime of Congress, but that is not an option here.
As communities rebuild, local governments need to attack the problem of runaway development in flood-prone areas. That’s a different issue than insurance, obviously, but it’s no less important.
Low-lying cities like Houston and Miami have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to killer floods after these storms.
The problem is, people have always been drawn to the water and will continue to be. Leaders must find a way to balance the natural draw that waterfront homes have against the danger of building in those areas.
Elected leaders generally deal with these problems only by reacting when disaster strikes.
Fiercely independent states like Florida and Texas generally loathe interference from the federal government, but they’re also quick to plead for Washington to open the taps for relief in times like this.
Well, don’t stop with just requesting aid.
Demand that this nation come up with a comprehensive disaster plan that is fair and affordable. Yes, that probably means resistance from states where flooding isn’t the issue it is here. It will mean dealing with the question of why people in other states should subsidize our demand to live by the water.
Solve it anyway, because this problem is certain to come up again.