The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety is busy these days…too busy. Not only is it focusing on increasing wildfire risks, damages and destruction, it is focusing on increasing flooding and hurricane risks, damages and destruction.
After examining building codes in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, the Institute found a dramatic shift towards less rigorous standards. This trend towards relaxing building standards and codes leads to residents in these states becoming more vulnerable to increasing risks of flooding and hurricanes, according to the Insurance Institute.
Anti-regulatory sentiment began growing in 2016. State officials, along with lobbyists for homebuilders, tend to want to avoid anything that might increase home costs that might, in turn, decrease home sales. The reason? Decreased home sales decrease the amount of tax revenue and net profit for builders that come with those home sales.
The state of Florida provides the clearest example of this anti-regulatory trend. Up until last year, Florida’s building codes were seen as among the best in the country. Those codes were put in place and updated every 3 years starting in 2009 as a direct response to Hurricane Andrew, a hurricane that killed 26 people, destroyed 63,000 homes and bankrupted 10 insurance companies.
Now, code updating has been suspended and the only changes made to building codes are those authorized by members of the Florida Building Commission. The argument used? “Cheaper homes mean more homes. And more new homes mean more tax revenue.”
The Florida Association of Realtors protested against these moves in saying that “…by not upgrading building codes might degrade the quality and standards…” of residential housing.
Leslie Chapman Henderson, the president of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, is also a critic of building code anti-regulation sentiment. “The system that has been dismantled in Florida is the system that gave us the successes we had this past year with Hurricane Irma.”
Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas are following suit to relax and/or totally ignore building codes that might assuage damage/destruction caused by flooding and hurricanes. In August of 2016, Louisiana lost 50,000 homes and $10B in damages in the country’s most costly flooding event in a decade. Last year, Hurricane Harvey damaged/destroyed 200,000 homes in Texas, a state that has yet to adopt mandatory building codes of any kind.