I'm getting frustrated (again) at claims by those who've been washed out of house and home by Hurricane Harvey that they're going to rebuild - in the same place. The same thing was said (and done) after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Gustav in 2008, both of which I experienced.
Have we learned nothing from such natural disasters?
The one thing we should not be encouraging is to allow people to rebuild right smack bang in the middle of the devastated area, where the next hurricane that comes along will do the same thing to them, all over again!
I'd like to see a threefold approach to this mess.
- If you want to rebuild in the same storm-affected area, you can do so; but once you do, you're on your own. There will be no storm- or flood-related insurance offered on your property, and FEMA and other government agencies will offer no compensation whatsoever if and when it's damaged or destroyed again by strong weather.
- Existing government-subsidized insurance programs (e.g. the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already more than $24 billion in the red) should be modified. Obviously, one can't suddenly cancel the insurance of existing policyholders; but there's no reason why the policies can't be modified. In the event of a claim, it should be a condition of payout that the insured use the money to rebuild elsewhere, in a safe location that is not within a flood danger zone. If they insist on rebuilding where they were, then their flood insurance will be summarily canceled after the payout, and their property will never again be eligible for any subsidized insurance policies. (Also, see point 1 above.)
- Insurance companies should be prohibited from using the premiums paid by policyholders in 'safe' areas to subsidize the premiums of those in 'unsafe' areas. If you choose to live in a hurricane or flood danger zone, or near an active geological fault that can produce earthquakes, or close to an active volcano, you will have to pay a premium that accurately reflects the risk to the insurer. Those living in safer areas should not have their premiums 'aggregated' with those in more dangerous areas, so that the former are effectively subsidizing the latter. If it's too expensive to get insurance in one area, you'll just have to carry that risk yourself - or move to a safer area. (Perhaps one-off, partial subsidies might be offered to encourage the latter.)
I suspect that, if those measures were put in place, we'd see a whole lot less people insisting on rebuilding in an area that's bound to be hit again by another such storm, sooner or later . . . costing all of us money.