Friday, March 09, 2007

From the Washington Post

The US has a bad habit of building in areas that don't make sense environmentally or actuarially. That habit has been aided and abetted by public officials who bend to the will of developers and their customers, despite storms, floods, earthquakes and other natural calamities that destroy lives and break banks. The latest example of this can be found in Florida. By rolling back insurance rates, spreading the risk and fiddling with its catastrophe fund, the Sunshine State has invited more development in dangerous places.

Florida is the country's first pin in hurricane alley. The major storms of the 2004 and 2005 seasons and their respective $20 billion and $10 billion payouts sent the insurance industry fleeing from the state. Those that stayed either stripped high-risk policyholders of coverage or jacked up premiums. So here's what the state government did: The state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is also the state's largest property insurer, rolled back planned rate increases. It will try to spread the risk by offering other policies, such as fire and theft. And it will offer its subsidized rates to commercial property. We live in an era with the potential for destructive storms. Everyone - from politicians to the voters they aim to please - must understand that there is a cost to offering below-market insurance that fuels unrestrained building in high-risk areas.

No comments: