Blank Rome Government Relations Principal Alan Rubin, who serves as co-chair of the Firm's Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team, authored a response for the Pro/Con portion of the CQ Researcher report, Extreme Weather (September 2019, Volume 29, Issue 33). In his essay, copied below, Alan provides the "pro" point of view for the prompt, "should the federal government subsidize rebuilding in areas vulnerable to extreme weather?"
Principal, Blank Rome Government Relations LLC. Written for CQ Researcher, September 2019
The question of where development can take place in the United States has always been a controversial one. Cities, municipalities, counties and states have looked to property taxes and other taxes to support their growth and pay for social programs. Environmentalists, social scientists and green advocates have always advocated for a minimalist approach to development to prevent what they view as the destruction of ecosystems and natural resources.
As the country has grown and population densities have increased, these priorities have not been kept in balance. However, people in areas where natural disasters have occurred have attempted to rebuild with the intention of “building back better.” Because 60 percent of the population lives along or near the coast, intelligent recovery and the use of zoning laws and unique construction designs must be implemented. In the recovery and resiliency process, we must recognize the potential for repetitive natural and man-made disasters.
With that as a premise, federal programs should allow for rebuilding in areas that are prone to extreme weather events. The key is making sure the redevelopment utilizes all of the innovative concepts and latest strategies in the legislative toolkit.
Examples include reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program for five to 10 years as opposed to the current practice of reauthorizing the program after it runs out of money following a natural disaster. As a part of this reauthorization, there should be an annual limit on premium increases that would exclude catastrophic-loss years. Additionally, a formula for increased rates would apply to the most expensive properties. And of course, there would need to be a means test for affordability and low income in setting rates.
Multiple programs at the local, state and federal levels can be used to facilitate rebuilding in areas devastated by natural disasters. These include:
Mold mitigation assistance grants.
Hazard mitigation grants.
Elevation requirements for commercial and residential buildings.
Mapping modernization and implementation.
Revolving loan funds for affected areas.
Mandatory business interruption insurance.
Mold damage identification.
Many of these items are being addressed. Certainly, improved zoning laws, buffer zones and architectural designs that prevent repetitive damage are all important weapons in legislating new and successful rules to help rebuilding in areas that have been or could be affected by extreme weather.
It is possible to successfully recover and prevent additional damage. This is required in order to coexist in a period of climate change and massively destructive storms.