Flood Insurance: A Modest Proposal
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All of this raises a simple question. What is the best way to deal with this sort of natural disaster? Where I live, it’s an inconvenience from which I can easily recover. That’s a lot like Tornado Alley where some people die each year, but most are unaffected. And even though California gets a lot of earthquakes, most people aren’t seriously affected and, contrary to Red State fever dreams, California won’t slide into the Pacific Ocean with the next temblor, thus favorably altering the political balance of the country. In short, there are natural challenges everywhere. But a few places are more challenged than others.
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If every property owner had to purchase flood/hurricane insurance on an open market, it’s likely a lot would not be able to come up with the scratch. It would be just too rich for their blood. But in 1968, the Feds decided that it would be good to “help” out coastal communities. They would have to do some land use planning, but ultimately, the lure of higher local tax bases won out. Over time, subsidized rates became the norm as President Obama finalized them in 2014.
Subsidized flood insurance means that sensitive barrier island ecologies are disrupted by massive cancers of concrete, steel, and lumber. When a storm at sea leads to high waves and beach erosion, the State of Florida dumps millions of dollars harvested from inland on those beaches in the form of megatons of sand. “Someone’s home is about to be washed out to sea!”
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We must get the government out of the flood insurance business. Stopping it overnight is probably a bad idea because current owners have a legal “reliance interest” in the program. So a stepwise approach must be found. The simplest approach might be called the “Hurricane Ian” solution. Every building wiped out by the storm would fall under this proposal.
If you lost your home or business due to the storm and were covered by Federal flood insurance, the Feds should pay you the full pre-storm value of the property, including the dirt. Then, the Feds would turn the property over to the state for full demolition and return to nature with a deed restriction that prevents construction on the site. Obviously, there would be an exception for basic park facilities such as parking lots and restrooms, but residences of any sort would be completely forbidden. In a subsequent storm, those would be relatively inexpensive and easy to rebuild.
In our current example, Sanibel Island would become a State Park nature preserve instead of a high-end residential community. The high rise resorts would go away, either because room rents were too high for most or because storm damage was severe. Much of Fort Myers Beach would undergo the same treatment. But neither area would be eligible for building.
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The only losers in this approach would be the people who simply “can’t” give up their beach lifestyle and the municipalities that would see their tax base shrink. I’ll shed a few crocodile tears for them.
Ted Noel MD is a retired Anesthesiologist/Intensivist who podcasts and posts on social media as DoctorTed and @vidzette. His DoctorTed podcasts are available on many podcast channels.
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I most heartily agree. And, while “taxation is theft”, we can never allow our search for liberty to get in the way of a good idea to get us “more freedom”.