The Rand Corporation has posted Flood Insurance in New York City Following Hurricane Sandy. The report has a chapter on affordability issues that is worth a read, particularly as the de Blasio Administration undertakes its ambitious affordable housing plan. The report notes that
many New Yorkers will face substantially higher flood insurance premiums moving forward. Many more structures will be in areas considered high-risk than in the past, and premiums for many structures already in high-risk areas will be based on considerably higher flood levels.
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These substantial premium increases will reduce the disposable income or wealth (or both) of many households and may well be unaffordable for some. In the absence of intervention, the consequences may be foreclosures, turnover, and hardship for some of New York City’s more-vulnerable citizens.(63)
The book goes on to review a variety of approaches “for addressing the affordability issue.” (67) It reviews “tax credits, grants, and vouchers that could be applied toward the cost of flood insurance.” (63) It also notes that such interventions distort “the price signal that incentives property owners to invest in risk-mitigation measures in order to reduce premiums.” (67) It considers proposals to deal with such distortion, such as a means-tested voucher program that is coupled “with a requirement that mitigation measures be taken that make sense for the property.” (67) The book only scratches the surface of this topic, noting that more “information is needed to address the advantages and disadvantages of alternative strategies for addressing affordability.” (68)
As the de Blasio Administration considers the preservation portion of its affordable housing agenda, one could imagine that a concerted effort to incentivize risk mitigation while also promoting affordability could be a significant component of the final plan. Solutions could range from deferred payment, due on sale or refinance of a home, to outright subsidies as outlined by the Rand report. Whatever the ultimate solution is, the problem should be incorporated into the City’s planning now.