Government Overhaul of National Flood Insurance Cheered by Climate Resilience Experts

Climate advocates say an overhaul of the nation’s flood insurance program being unveiled by the Trump administration will spur communities around the country to better plan for extreme weather, but could drive up costs for some homeowners.

The changes being announced Monday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency represent one of the most significant reforms in the history of the National Flood Insurance Program. It will tie premiums to the actual flood risk facing individual homes nationwide starting in October 2020. The current system sets prices based largely on whether a home is inside or outside of the 100-year flood plain.

“This is badly needed,” said Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. She called the shift “a huge step in the right direction, so we can let communities, particularly those communities that have been repetitively flooded, know what their actual risk is.”

But the change risks increasing costs in the most flood-exposed areas, Udvardy cautioned. “We also have concerns about affordability,” she said. “How do we protect those people that are historically disadvantaged and low-income, and that are also on the front lines of flooding?”

The initiative, which FEMA calls Risk Rating 2.0, follows a string of catastrophic events, including the Baton Rouge flood in 2016, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Florence last year. In each of those events, a large share of damaged homes lacked flood insurance, in part because FEMA’s current system didn’t accurately measure their risk.

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