Is flood insurance necessary for all South Florida residents?


MIAMI – The damage caused when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas has a lot of people in Florida concerned about flood insurance.

"I'm always afraid something is going to happen," Rosa Montes said. "I'd rather have insurance, even if I don’t use it."

Montes is that rare homeowner who pays for flood insurance, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not list her neighborhood as a high-risk flood zone, in which that coverage is mandatory for a mortgage.

As South Florida residents see the flooding in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey, they know they could likely face the same kind of catastrophe.

"People think they have to have flood insurance. They don't have to have it. They don't need it. That's not true. One million and four hundred thousand homes in Florida are vulnerable to flooding, and I don't have flood insurance," said Jay Neal, of the Florida Association for Insurance Reform.

FEMA's official high-risk flood maps don't show what tracking technology elsewhere shows  -- larger regions susceptible to water inundation.

Local 10's storm specialist Max Mayfield has been sounding that alarm since his days heading the National Hurricane Center.

"If you are fortunate enough to live in South Florida where it rains, and rains a lot, you have the possibility of being flooded," he said.

Flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance pool is relatively affordable, because the 50-year-old program heavily subsidizes its premiums. 

After decades of paying out after big storms, the Government Accountability Office states the program is $24 billion in debt, and that was before Hurricane Harvey.

"The bottom line is, it's simply just not sustainable the way it's set up now," Mayfield said.

The flood insurance pool expires at the end of next month. 

Congress is working to transform it into a sustainable program -- a politically difficult calculation that will have  to cost property owners more. How much and how soon are the questions that need to be answered.

"I think the danger is if it does go up too high, too fast, that people will just walk away," Mayfield said. "They're not going to do it."


About the Author: