A recent report shows many Houstonians who lost their homes during Hurricane Harvey and participated in the federal flood insurance program are well on their way to recovering their homes, while those who did not are still living in the ruins of their flood-damaged homes.
The report, published in the Dallas Morning News, shows 80 percent of homeowners who lost their homes in the storm did not pay for a flood insurance policy pre-Harvey.
Most of those without flood insurance said they believed they didn’t need flood insurance, as they did not live in the “100 year flood plain.”
Based on some jurisdictions’ laws, homes outside the most flood-prone areas are not required to carry flood insurance.
According to Robert Hunter, Texas’ former insurance commissioner and current director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, however, many of the maps the insurance program uses to evaluate flood potentials are outdated.
“It’s not a pretty picture — if you don’t have insurance, you’re in trouble,” Hunter said in an interview. “Richer people have resources and can get help. Poorer people, frequently, have to walk away.”
While some homeowners declined flood insurance policies due to the cost of premiums – often ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars annually – in many cases, some said they did not know their mortgage bankers or real estate agents required flood insurance policies.
Others said they picked up policies shortly after purchasing their homes, but then dropped the policies after several years of no flooding or threats of damage.
“Just because they have it today, doesn’t mean they’ll have it when the next flood comes,” Hunter said further.
Many of the poorer homeowners without flood insurance reportedly lack the option of walking away:
Petra Cervantes and her family lived a home on Houston’s east side for nearly 30 years until it was destroyed by Harvey.
Thanks to their lack of flood insurance, now months after the storm, they are living in a tent and cook their meals on a camping stove:
“Do you see those zombie movies?” Cervantes said. “That’s the way I feel.”