100RC Calls on Congress to Improve Flood Insurance Program to Help Cities Build Resilience and Prepare for New Challenges

With National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Set to Expire, Policy Proposals Offer Path Forward to Assist Flood-Prone Cities in Building Resilience, Preparing for Next Challenge

Proposals Come from Close Consultation with Mayors and Flood Experts Around the Country – Created in Partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. and  Georgetown Climate Center

Proposals Will Expand Participation, Maintain Affordability, and Ensure Sustainability of Flood Insurance

NEW YORK 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC), today released Strengthening the National Insurance Flood Program (NFIP),” a set of policy proposals designed to improve the NFIP and mitigate cities’ growing flood risks. The report comes as the U.S. has weathered one of the most active and severe hurricane seasons on record, with four major hurricanes making landfall this year. 100RC’s policy proposal calls on Congress to make flood insurance more affordable, encourage participation, offer incentives for communities to build projects that mitigate flood risks, and provide urban planners and homeowners access to comprehensive, timely flood maps. With the authorization for the NFIP set to expire this December, these proposals will help cities use the program to prepare for future disasters – not just to recover from previous ones.

“A robust, comprehensive, and effective NFIP is an essential tool in a city’s resilience building toolbelt,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “The program needs to be revitalized and reconfigured to ensure that cities can continue to use it to build resilience to the next challenge, not just recover from the last.”

“The terrible human suffering and economic damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria make apparent the immediate need to focus on future-proofing communities and protecting low- and moderate-income residents who are most vulnerable to flooding and other extreme weather events,” said Marion McFadden, Vice President of Public Policy at Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. “These recommendations strike the right balance by increasing hazard mitigation measures and reforming delivery of the nation’s flood insurance to ensure both fiscally sound operations and affordability. Congress would do well to include them in any final legislation, as it takes up true reform efforts.”

“The Georgetown Climate Center is pleased to support 100 Resilient Cities as it identifies common-sense reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program – so that it provides insurance options that are both affordable and risk-based,” said Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria demonstrate the kind of damage we can expect from a rapidly changing climate. Reforms to the NFIP are needed to ensure that communities, homeowners and businesses have the financial resources to recover after these storms and to take proactive steps to reduce flood risks.”

The recommendations are part of a comprehensive policy proposal designed to aid Congress’ efforts to reform the program, which provides a vital safeguard against natural disasters, before the program expires in December 2017. The NFIP allows cities to mitigate their flood risks, while providing property owners and businesses with the financial resources they need to rebuild after disaster.

But the program faces a number of large-scale challenges: as of July 2016, the program was $24 billion in debt to the US Treasury; it is not widely utilized by American homeowners who need it the most; and it uses outdated floodplain maps as the basis for rates, among other issues. With flood insurance rates rising, Congress has a duty to make significant reforms to NFIP to ensure that vulnerable Americans are not priced out of coverage.

100RC – whose global network includes more than 20 U.S. cities with risk to coastal and storm water flooding, including New Orleans, Greater Miami and the Beaches, Norfolk, and New York City – has proposed four key reforms for Congress to consider. Each of these reforms will make the reauthorized NFIP stronger, more resilient, and better able to serve the needs of cities and residents as they experience more violent and frequent storms. Some of these legislative reforms include:

Maintain insurance affordability but provide accurate risk-based price signals

  • Maintain insurance rate increases, but give the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the authority to offer means-tested assistance for low- and moderate-income property owners.
  • Expand coverage through government and private sources to increase the number of properties insured.

Provide funding and incentives for individual and community-scale flood mitigation programs

  • Provide funding and incentives to help communities make investments in large-scale projects that reduce flood risk.
  • Include funding or financing options for communities to make investments in green or gray infrastructure that will reduce risks from natural disasters, including floods.
  • Give FEMA the authority to encourage owners of multi-family and mixed-use structures to mitigate flood risks with lowered insurance premiums.

Provide accurate, up-to-date information about flood risks and future conditions

  • Improve coordination of resources among FEMA, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies to help communities better understand their flood risks.
  • Fund a National Academies study to identify strategies for creating a national flood mapping initiative.

Enhance participation in the flood insurance program

  • Authorize the sale of fixed-rate, multi-year insurance policies to create purchase incentives.
  • Expand flood insurance purchase requirements for federally backed mortgages to address increasing flood plain losses outside of mapped, special flood hazard areas.

For a full list of legislative and executive actions, read the rest of the report here [link].

These proposals, developed with contributions from Enterprise Community Partners Inc., Georgetown Climate Center, Climate Resilience Consulting, and HR&A Advisors, can inform the next generation of federal assistance to flood preparedness and recovery.

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About 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each member city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges.

100RC is financially supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and managed as a sponsored project by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides governance and operational infrastructure to its sponsored projects.

For more information, visit: www.100ResilientCities.org