The first step in any addiction program is to recognize that there’s a problem. Public officials must recognize that Houston has a flooding problem and that is getting worse. We have contended for years that our development practices are the problem and have outlined several changes that would have helped, but they were rejected.
After hurricane Sandy hit the northeast before Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had recovered from Katrina, Rita and Ike, the Biggert-Waters Insurance reform Act of 2012 (BW-2012) tasked FEMA to begin pricing insurance based upon risk. When they did, insurance rates for at-risk areas like coastal communities jumped so high that the reaction was so swift and loud that parts of BW-2012 were repealed or modified by a new reform act, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. Most of BW-2012 provisions remained, but rather than a sudden jump in insurance rates, they slowly ramped up and some homeowners’ policies were grandfathered.
FEMA continues to work to find equitable ways to keep flood insurance affordable, and to make sure that the rest of the nation doesn’t pay for bad players. Louisiana and Texas are the top two offenders, a fact that is receiving national attention. The table below shows the numbers that were taken from a letter received from an inquiry submitted to FEMA. Roy Wright, FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation, had quoted the national figure to be 26%. Brochures from Houston’s Office of Floodplain Management quote Houston as 25%.
It should be obvious that Harris County and Houston raise Texas’ average and Texas raises the national average. It should also be obvious that our problem regional.