While all 50 states saw contract declines, Minnesota, North Dakota and Arizona saw the biggest drop. Flood-prone Texas and Florida both saw a 5% drop, but Louisiana was down just 2.3%.
Dr. Samuel Brodydirector of the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas and professor at Texas A&M University in Galveston, said rising flood insurance rates have become an equity issue because they have become so expensive that people can’t afford them.
“It can literally change the socio-economic situation on the Gulf Coast,” he said.
At the heart of this equity issue, Brody pointed out, is how the government views flooding as a natural disaster. Other countries have focused on flood prevention, while the United States is primarily focused on flood recovery efforts.
“Our whole system is based on recovery reactions, so flood insurance, essentially, accepts failure,” he said.
Experts, including those from FEMA, agree that resilience to floods and more broadly to climate change is a collaborative effort between governments, agencies and communities.
“Disaster resilience is a cross-cutting and integrated effort between a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders. Each area of expertise and sphere of responsibility affects another,” said David MaurstadDeputy Associate Administrator for Resilience.
He added that “insurance combined with mitigation is the key to disaster resilience in the face of climate change”.
Asked which state is most flood resilient, Sebastian and Brody both cited Texas, specifically Houston, as the best example of efforts in watershed flood planning, real estate risk disclosure regulations and freeboard standards, among others.
Brody said Houston had more flood redemptions than any other part of the country, where the local government buys flood-prone properties from residents who move to areas with low flood risk.
Sebastian named Louisiana as a state investing not only in the structural and coastal protection of New Orleans’ surge barrier, but also in softer, nature-based solutions in the mash and delta landscape.
As these high-risk states make progress on flood resilience, Sebastian said, “[The frequency and intensity of flood events there] growing at a faster rate than in other parts of the country. Simultaneously, we are dumping more and more people into these areas, and these two things are compounding each other.
And to combat these forces, Brody said governments need to take more proactive steps to build resilience. These include purchasing flood-prone properties, protecting properties before they are developed, and raising structures being built in flood-prone areas to appropriate levels.
Given the incremental flood resilience measures Houston has taken following Hurricane Harvey, Brody said, “It gives me hope for communities across the country to be able to understand the issues and to act in ways that create a more resilient future.”