The Transylvania Times -

Who Pays For Flooded Homes?


September 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey dumped more than four feet of rain along the Texas coast, causing extensive flooding and ruining thousands of homes. Hurricane Irma caused widespread flooding in Florida, from Jacksonville on the east coast to Bonita Springs on the west coast. And Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico with floodwaters transforming streets into raging rivers. While this editorial is being written, Maria, now a tropical storm, is overwashing N.C. 12 along the North Carolina coast and is predicted to erode more than half of the dunes on the Outer Banks.

While these storms have been exceptional in their ferocity, two factors contributed to the damage they have caused: rising sea levels and construction in low-lying coastal areas.

Setting aside any charge of responsibility for rising sea levels, the facts are clear that sea levels are rising. According to the National Academy of Sciences, sea levels have risen along Atlantic and Gulf coasts by more than 8 inches in the last 50 years. By the end of this century, due to melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, as well as “thermal expansion” of our oceans, sea levels are projected to rise 1.6 to 3.3 feet with some areas showing an increase of 6 feet. Combined with storm surge, these increases can mean the difference between structures being completely flooded or remaining bone dry and habitable.

The problem along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including North Carolina, is that many developers have been successfully pushing for these scientific predictions to be ignored so that they can continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars building along the shoreline. In North Carolina, Rep. Pat McElrath, who also happens to be a coastal realtor, wrote legislation banning the state from using scientific projections of rising seas levels for four years.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Zillow, by matching its 110 million home database with the NOAA map showing a projected sea level rise of 6 feet by the end of the century, found that nearly 2 million homes worth a total of $882 billion were at risk of being flooded. In North Carolina, there are 57,000 houses that fall into this category. (Florida had the highest with 934,000 houses.)

Developers do not want the scientific data to restrict their coastal developments. Coastal real estate is incredibly valuable and developers, all else being equal, make their most money building along the coast.

And yet, flooding along the coast lines continues to increase. So the question is: Who pays when these houses are flooded and destroyed?

Certainly not the developers, who have made their money and moved on. The homeowners pay through the purchase of flood insurance or sometimes out of their own pockets, but homeowners are the ones who enjoy the ocean views and took the risk of living in such areas. The ones who get gouged are the American taxpayers, who end up footing the bill when the federal government offers assistance to help people rebuild after such cataclysmic events or ends up buying homes that lie in flood-prone areas.

So what is the solution? We should not penalize people who purchased homes in these areas before we knew about sea level rise or changing flood plains. But after helping them rebuild once, if they decide to remain in a place scientists say is susceptible to sea level rise or flooding, then they can pay the next time. As for new construction, now that the scientific data is available, if developers build and people buy in places projected to be affected by rising seas or in flood-prone areas, they do so at their own peril.

It is fiscally irresponsible and morally unfair for the American taxpayers to bail out people who continually rebuild structures in areas that have been flooded and are prone to flooding again.

On Wednesday, as the weakened edges of Maria pounded the Outer Banks, Tony Meekins told the AP, “Mother Nature just keeps chopping at it. We see it storm are after storm.” He then added, “We’ll rebuild and carry on. It’s just the way it goes. We’re kind of used to it.”

That’s fine if Meekins wants to spend his own money or that of his insurance company to rebuild again. It’s not all right for taxpayers to continue to pick up part of the tab.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017