The news seems alarming: Federal flood insurance premiums are rising fast. Some Long Island homeowners on our region’s coasts face increases as large as 18 percent a year.
That’s a painful prospect for those making payments. But it’s not an unfair one. And it’s not the only change that must be made in an area where too many people live too close to the water’s edge.
Flood insurance for coastal homes is expensive because the risks of living on nature’s doorstep are high. For years, many premiums — about a third of the 85,000 policies on Long Island — have been below market rate, subsidized by the federal government. That means taxpayers not living on the water are picking up part of the tab. That’s not right. And in the wake of storms like Sandy and Katrina, the supposed-to-be self-sustaining National Flood Insurance Program is nearly $25 billion in debt. To save the program, premiums must rise. And it’s only fair that, as difficult as it might be, they are paid by those who need the insurance in the first place, not the rest of us who don’t.
Five years ago, Congress increased many premiums and ended subsidies when a house was sold. But some changes were rolled back after Sandy. That was wrong. Still, the hikes, while taking a toll, are forcing change, much of it overdue and necessary. The increases are leading some homeowners to raise their houses to reduce premiums. That’s one way to avoid significant damage and reduce claims from the next storm. The rising cost of policies is making high-risk homes more expensive. That’s unfortunate, especially for the many people battered by Sandy and struggling to recover.
But when you live on the water, you must accept the risks. No one else should have to pay for that.— The editorial board