This fall’s massive flooding in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria has brought renewed urgency to the national conversation about flood insurance. The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) faces more than $20 billion in debt, and it is widely considered ill equipped to deal with the type of catastrophic natural events that wracked the U.S. this fall.
Federal efforts are already underway to address the issue. On Nov. 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, called the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which would renew and overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), update federal flood mapping requirements and bolster an emerging private flood insurance market.
In light of this pressing issue, Penn IUR and the Wharton School’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center are undertaking a project on flood hazard events, community resiliency and flood insurance. Led jointly by Penn IUR Co-Director Susan Wachter and the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center’s Co-Director Howard Kunreuther this new partnership will take stock of what we know about flood risk and the housing market and develop public policies for increasing our resilience to flood risk.
This new research will complement past work Penn IUR has undertaken on the topic of flooding and risk management. Last Spring, Penn IUR, in partnership with Perry World House, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, and the Humanities, Urbanism, and Design (H+U+D) Initiative, hosted a talk focused on the growing hydrological problems created by climate change. The talk addressed the reality of the current hydrological situation: all across the globe, flooding, drought, and water pollution are on the rise. As part of the discussion, participants called for a new, transformative approach to water management—one that builds capacity, meets short and long-term needs, and is both transparent and inclusive.