Hurricane Season Bears Down—With 7 Million Homes at Risk and a Federal Flood-Insurance Program Set to Expire

Sep 11, 2018 — Andrea Riquier

If this summer has had you trying to get to grips with hurricane season, you’re not alone. Millions of homes across the U.S. sit in harm’s way, and the resulting damage could be in the trillions of dollars, according to a 2018 report.

Those estimates come from real-estate data provider CoreLogic and are based on forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that foresaw a 2018 Atlantic hurricane season that was “near or above normal.”

This year, nearly 7 million homes are at risk of hurricane storm surge, CoreLogic said. That’s the same number as last year, when NOAA predicted an “above normal” season. But total reconstruction costs are forecast to be more than $1.6 trillion this year, a jump of 6.6% compared with the $1.5 trillion estimated in 2017. The driver? Higher costs for construction, equipment and labor.

A look at the top 10 metros most at risk this hurricane season

A look at the top 10 metros most at risk this hurricane seasonCoreLogic

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 metro areas most at risk. (CoreLogic has the top 15 metro areas, as well as breakdowns by state and other categories, on its website.)

Metropolitan areaTotal homesat risk of storm surgeTotal estimatedreconstruction cost valueMiami788,679$156,109,638,962New York726,048$277,316,495,768Tampa, Fla.459,082$79,154,913,706New Orleans395,975$95,278,109,445Virginia Beach, Va,389,938$90,904,781,082Fort Myers, Fla.318,950$63,465,095,946Houston284,622$57,652,653,916Bradenton, Fla.254,535$49,231,359,219Naples, Fla.186,100$39,684,021,652Jacksonville, Fla.171,322$38,495,385,153

The final tally for hurricane season last year remains incomplete. The two largest storms, Harvey and Irma, are estimated to have cost between $40 billion and $59 billion and $29 billion and $46 billion, respectively, but there’s no accounting yet for the other storms, Tom Jeffery, senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic, told MarketWatch.

A noteworthy factor that’s consistent from 2017 to this year: Once again, the National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire in the middle of hurricane season if Congress doesn’t take action.

The federal program is the only option for many homeowners in areas where such insurance is required. Many politicians and housing-industry participants agree that it would be better to have more private-sector options, but true reform of the program has proved challenging.

The National Association of Realtors is again lobbying Congress for reauthorization before the July 31 expiration to avoid disrupting the housing market. The lobbying group said each time the program lapses, it costs 40,000 property sales per month. What’s more, because each insurance policy is written for a year at a time, a lapse in a policy attached to a mortgage may constitute a default.