By Terry Spencer, Meghan Hoyer and Michael Kunzelman The Associated Press
PLANTATION, Fla. — Having relocated from Cincinnati, Amanda Spartz nearly did not renew her home’s flood insurance policy after her first year in Florida. Two hurricanes came close to the Fort Lauderdale suburbs last year, but they didn’t hit and her home isn’t in a high-risk flood zone. She figured she could put the $450 annual premium, due next week, to another use.
Then Harvey hit Houston. Spartz, a business analyst, paid the bill this week.
Far fewer Americans compared with five years ago are paying for flood insurance in coastal areas of the United States where hurricanes, storms and tidal surges pose a serious threat, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. The center for the problem is South Florida, where Spartz lives.
“It isn’t a lot of money to save yourself the heartache if it does happen,” said Spartz.
What’s driving the drop in policies? Congress approved a price hike, making premiums more expensive, and maps of some high-risk areas were redrawn. Banks became lax at enforcing the requirement that any home with a federally insured mortgage in a high-risk area be covered. Memories of Hurricane Katrina have faded.
Without insurance, storm victims have to draw on savings, go into debt or sell.
The number of policies in force today has fallen in 43 of the 50 states since 2012, dropping from almost 5.5 million to just under 5 million, a decrease of 10 percent, AP found. In Florida, where by far more flood insurance policies are sold than in any other state, the drop has been almost 16 percent. In only Hawaii and South Carolina are at least 50 percent of homes in flood hazard areas insured under the program.
AP’s analysis showed the percentage of homes in high-risks areas that have flood insurance is sometimes frighteningly low. In Spartz’s home of Broward County, it’s 13 percent. In Houston’s Harris County, it’s 28 percent. In New Orleans, it’s 46 percent.
September 2, 2017