Brooklyn Law Review


As Harvey, Irma, Maria and other major 2017 storms washed upon the shores of the United States, millions of people across the nation in major cities and rural areas alike found their possessions, their homes, and sadly in many cases their lives, washed away with the storms. The destructive hurricane season came just as Congress began to consider the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal system of subsidized flood insurance created to fill a void left by private insurers in the 1960s. Extreme weather events such as these illustrate the need for such a program and pressure politicians to continue providing coverage in high-risk area; yet, the growing number and intensity of storms as a result of climate change also underscores the need for NFIP reform. The continued provision of coverage at subsidized premium rates under the NFIP have not only contributed to the program’s long-term insolvency, but also have created perverse incentives to develop in high-risk areas that will only grow riskier over time. The most egregious example of this comes in the form of severe repetitive loss properties—homes that flood dozens of times, yet continue to receive insurance benefits many times the value of the underlying property. Rather than maintaining the status quo, this note proposes the institution of a system of “involuntary buyouts,” whereby federal, state, and local governmental actors can exercise their existing authority under the Takings Clause. This approach would improve the solvency of the NFIP, prevent redevelopment in high-risk areas, and create natural barriers to safeguard communities against future disasters.