Opinion Editorial by Amanda Bryant
The Invading Sea
September 22, 2020
For more than a year, flood preparedness advocates in Florida have urged lawmakers to protect homebuyers by requiring that prospective buyers and renters are given current data about a property’s flood risk and history as they consider a purchase or lease.
Unfortunately, even with Congress on deadline to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) by Sept. 30, nothing has been done at the federal level to ensure flood risk and history disclosure.
Now we are faced with the 16th short-term extension of the NFIP in three years, leaving millions vulnerable to unknowingly buying or renting property that is likely to flood and placing them in financial and emotional distress.
While we strongly believe this national issue requires a federal solution, Floridians simply cannot afford to remain in the dark – and neither can Florida. Left uniformed on the true risk of flooding to their property, homeowners and renters are more likely make decisions causing them to be under-insured or uninsured completely.
Following a flood event, it is these families who are the most in need and, without insurance, heavily reliant on state and federal financial assistance and government programming.
As we continue to see devastating storms like Hurricane Sally, which just weeks ago dumped more than 30 inches of rain in Pensacola over the course of four hours, these uninsured losses will place even more strain on budgets at the local, state, and federal level.
Thankfully, we’ve seen signs that state leaders would embrace sound flood policies as Florida makes progress in prioritizing resilience and mitigation policies.
In their Sept. 15 column in The Invading Sea, Florida House of Representatives Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and Florida Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) laid out a bold plan, beginning with a call to “elevate flood mitigation as a critical part of Florida’s public safety infrastructure.” They go on to say the approach to flood mitigation should be systematic and start with assessments of long-term needs. We couldn’t agree more.
As congressional inaction continues, it’s time for Florida to join other large states, like Texas, and pass disclosure laws protecting the millions of families impacted by flood events, many of whom are low and moderate income.
This is a policy that lawmakers can expect to be welcomed favorably. According to a poll conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 74 percent of Americans support a requirement that sellers inform would-be buyers if a property has flooded repeatedly, as well as a condition that those properties are covered by flood insurance.
With due attention in Tallahassee on mitigating flood risk, we cannot waste this opportunity to end the costly and dangerous cycle of leaving families uninformed on the true issues associated with repeatedly flooded properties.
Amanda Bryant is the director of operations for My Flood Risk, a free, interactive, web-based platform to help property owners determine their true flood risk using comprehensive, up-to-date factors.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.