The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was designed to help Americans recover from flood disasters, but it can also unintentionally trap homeowners who would prefer to move somewhere safer. Instead of moving, many policyholders find themselves rebuilding their homes again and again. Across the United States, more than 30,000 “severe repetitive loss properties” (SRLPs) have been covered under the NFIP. These properties have flooded an average of five times, according to FEMA data acquired by NRDC through a Freedom of Information Act request.
More and more Americans are living in areas that are vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise.4,5,6 In the face of rising flood risks and damages, the NFIP should provide interested homeowners the option of relocating. This issue brief proposes flood insurance reforms that would make it possible for the owners of repeatedly flooded homes to receive a buyout of their property after a flood, removing the uncertainty that surrounds FEMA’s existing buyout efforts. Under this proposal, homeowners would be able to voluntarily sign up for a buyout before the next flood occurs. If a flood then substantially damages their home, FEMA would quickly provide funding that enables the local government to purchase the flood-prone property and convert it to open space while freeing the owner to relocate.
This year, Congress is debating the future of the NFIP. This presents a critical opportunity to make buyouts of flood-prone properties a more realistic option for more homeowners. With floods and flood damages on the rise, now is the time for climate-smart reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.