Harvey Destruction And The Nation’s Struggling Flood Insurance Program

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With guest host Sacha Pfeiffer.

Underwater. Devastating floods in Texas put the spotlight back on the nation’s troubled flood insurance program. We’ll take it up.

A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Spring, Texas. (David J. Phillip/AP)
A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Spring, Texas. (David J. Phillip/AP)

The deluge continues in Houston and the flooding aftermath is intense. By the time this storm is over, houses in the region are expected to suffer up to $30 billion in damages. But the National Flood Insurance Program is already in rough shape – heavily in debt and politically at risk. Without it, how will homeowners cover their losses? This hour, On Point: the cost of flood insurance and whether more of us may be at risk of flooding than we know. -- Sacha Pfeiffer. 


John Burnett, NPR’s Southwest Correspondent. (@radiobigtex)

Zachary Warmbrodt, Financial Services Reporter for POLITICO Pro. (@Zachary)

Caitlin Berni, Vice President for Policy and Communications for Greater New Orleans, Inc., a regional economic development alliance. She directs the group's Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance. (@CaitlinBerni)

Steve Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense. Member of Smarter Safer, a national coalition working to promote fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy. (@TaxpayersEllis)

From the Reading List

POLITICO: Flood Insurance Splits GOP, Spurs Bipartisan Dealmaking As Deadline Looms — "At issue is the future of a government backstop that protects millions of Americans from the financial risks of flooding, but at a steep cost: The program has racked up almost $25 billion in debt. Its survival is a concern that is being grimly highlighted this weekend as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey inundate Texas. Factions of lawmakers are at odds over how to boost the insurance program’s bottom line. A key source of tension is to what extent homeowners should pay higher rates to put the service on stronger financial footing."

CNN Money: Most Homes In Tropical Storm Harvey's Path Don't Have Flood Insurance — "Figures from the National Flood Insurance Program show that only 15% of homes in Harris Country, which includes Houston, have flood insurance, while only 20% of homes in Nueces County, where the coastal city of Corpus Christie is located, are covered. Coverage rates are higher in the area's flood zones, but many homes still aren't covered."

Vox: The US Is Good At Responding To Flood Damage. We’re Terrible At Mitigating It. — "The United States spends about $300 billion responding to natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. In contrast, we only spend about $600 million on mitigation — improving buildings so they won’t flood when the next storm comes. This is despite the fact that mitigation has a 4-1 payback, Larson said. The problem is that people often don’t want to spend money up front to protect their house or business, and then get caught up in a cycle of rebuilding."

This program aired on August 29, 2017.


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