As Irma leaves Florida, statistics from the hardest-hit areas of the state are a reminder of how pricey it remains to insure against floods — both for homeowners and taxpayers.
Florida households account for 35% of all National Flood Insurance Program policies across the country. But data from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Flood-Prepared Communities program show that only about 14% of the 3.3 million households in the nine counties covered by the Irma Presidential Disaster Declaration have such coverage.
The NFIP is the only option for many homeowners in flood-prone areas. It offers what many critics call overly-subsidized policies because it makes it more affordable to build and re-build in risky regions. That leaves taxpayers on the hook: the program is $25 billion in debt.
Also read: Nearly 7 million homes are at risk of hurricane storm surge, even as national flood insurance program may expire
The two counties with the lowest percentage of policyholders include Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.
County Policies Housing units % covered by NFIP Charlotte 26,334 102,704 26% Collier 67,227 210,128 32% Hillsborough* 34,589 568,839 6% Lee 70,196 385,070 18% Manatee 20,942 185,272 11% Miami-Dade 141,886 1,021,527 14% Monroe 14,680 53,122 28% Pinellas* 32,556 507,425 6% Sarasota 38,761 235,695 16% *home to the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area
Those figures are a rough estimate based on an analysis Pew ran for MarketWatch, drawing on policy statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and household count data from the Census Bureau.
Irma’s impact wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but some more statistics from Pew illustrate the high cost of encouraging households to remain in flood-prone areas:
• As of 2016, roughly 14,000 Florida properties with NFIP policies have “flooded multiple times and were rebuilt, and are likely to flood again,” Pew noted.
• Since 2000, Florida has had 12 hurricane-related disaster declarations resulting in more than $6 billion in federal assistance.
• The most recent was Hurricane Matthew, which resulted in payment on 16,275 NFIP claims totaling more than $620 million, or an average of $38,095 per claim. In addition, nearly $21 million in federal assistance was provided to Floridians without federal flood insurance.
Also read: More than half of Houston’s flood-prone properties aren’t in areas that require insurance: CoreLogic