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US - FEMA's flood insurance overhaul could entrench inequities in coastal cities

Flood insurance is designed to help protect families from bankruptcy when disaster strikes. However, a new policy being rushed into place by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) threatens to transform the National Flood Insurance Program from a financial lifeline into a crippling financial burden for thousands of low-income families in coastal cities.

Flood insurance is designed to help protect families from bankruptcy when disaster strikes. However, a new policy being rushed into place by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) threatens to transform the National Flood Insurance Program from a financial lifeline into a crippling financial burden for thousands of low-income families in coastal cities.

This policy, which FEMA first promoted as “Risk Rating 2.0” and has recently been rebranded as “Equity in Action” is anything but equitable. The policy has been designed in a black box that doesn't allow communities or property owners to proactively understand how their flood insurance premiums are changing or what factors account for those changes.

While we don’t yet know for sure, it’s expected that flood insurance costs will skyrocket in many urban areas, including in New York City’s coastal neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods are among our last bastions of affordable homeownership, especially for communities of color that continue to experience the damaging legacy of racist redlining policies.  

With millions of Americans still reeling from pandemic-related unemployment and trying to catch up on their mortgage payments, raising premiums will force many households to choose between abandoning their insurance policies or cutting back on household necessities like food and transportation.


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