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Reconsider federal flood-insurance subsidies for coastal properties
Guest columnist

As a longtime coastal property-owner and environmental advocate, I believe it’s critically important that the public understands the consequences of calling for cheaper flood insurance in these times of increasing risk.

The Federal Flood Insurance Program began decades ago, when flooding events were considered an “act of God” – natural phenomena that could randomly disrupt the lives of unwary property-owners suffering storm damage. By reducing the costs of insurance, the government offered to help prevent catastrophic financial impacts caused by flooding. 

Parenthetically, it seems likely that the construction lobby promoted such policy, because developers have definitely shared the benefits.

In any case, we now face a world where it is well-known that human activities are substantially increasing coastal flooding through climate-altering emission of greenhouse gases, and we have a scientific basis for understanding what areas are at greatest risk.

Any efforts to make government-subsidized property insurance “cheaper” for those owning property in areas where flood hazards are significant – and growing – would result in increased damages at the taxpayers’ expense. In effect, such policies unfairly shift the cost of such risks onto the general public.

As sea-level continues to rise and storm-intensity grows due to human-caused climate disruption, low-cost flood insurance will irresponsibly contribute to ever-greater, yet avoidable, property damage and financial burdens, as well as hazards to public safety.

There are already examples of FEMA insurance payouts being used to repeatedly rebuild the same properties, despite their obviously high risk – resulting in millions in tax-payer dollars being squandered on individual properties valued at a few hundred-thousand dollars.

Instead of funneling still more tax revenues toward bailing-out unwise new development – and redevelopment – on structures knowingly located in harm’s way, federal funds should be used to compensate property-owners who decide to retreat into safer areas.

The reality of rising seas and more destructive storms, like other consequences of climate disturbance – and especially its causes – must be responsibly confronted. 

It’s wastefully and dangerously foolhardy to persist in manipulating the market to artificially reduce the cost of inhabiting high-hazard areas. The burden of such risks must be assumed by those taking them, not foisted on taxpayers.

David Kyler, 

Center for a 

Sustainable Coast 

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