PROVIDENCE – About 1 in 10 Rhode Island residents have dropped their flood insurance since December due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new system that some say affects the state’s poorer residents, according to WPRI-TV CBS 12.
The station on Thursday reported policies decreased from 11,104 on Dec. 31, 2021, to 10,133 on July 31, about 10%, according to data from the R.I. Emergency Management Agency.
The drop in polices was due to FEMA raising its rates in April. The new insuring system, called Risk Rating 2.0, aims to charge higher premiums for riskier homes. Almost 55% of single-family homes in Rhode Island will see a cost increase between $12 and $120 per year.
“Folks might be saving $100, $120 a year, but the risk they’re taking on by doing that is really quite substantial,” Jon Nelson, professor of environmental studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, told WPRI-TV. “Especially if you live near a river, you should be reconsidering dropping that policy.”
Nelson said that areas with rivers, streams or creeks such as Pawtucket, Foster, Providence, West Warwick and Hopkinton have seen the biggest increases in premiums, suggesting FEMA is concerned about areas that flood easily during significant rainstorms.
He told the station since the poorest people usually own the homes near rivers, streams and creeks that are at high risk of flooding, the end result is FEMA’s increased rates target the state’s most disadvantaged communities.
“The lower your income, the more of your wealth is held in your home,” Nelson told the station. “The wealth of their family is accrued through paying off their mortgage – that could be wiped out during a single event.”
Nelson said there’s a trickle-down effect when too many homes don’t have insurance: People won’t be able to rebuild, cities and towns will lose their tax base, and municipalities won’t be able to afford to build schools and maintain roads.