“We Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Building Codes. Taxpayers will Bail us Out.”

March 19, 2018

After Hurricane Andrew wreaked wide destruction in South Florida, new building standards were introduced that have been successful in reducing damages in more recent storms.
Naturally, builders and developers want to weaken those standards.

No worries, you’ll pay for it in disaster bailouts after the next storm. Thanks, y’all.


The showdown in the Florida statehouse last year had all the drama of a knock-down political brawl: Powerful industries clashing. Warnings of death and destruction. And a surprise last-minute vote, delivering a sweeping reform bill to the governor’s desk.

The battle wasn’t about gun control, immigration or healthcare, but about making it easier to ignore national guidelines on building codes. To the surprise of the insurers, engineers and safety advocates who opposed the change, the home builders won — in a state that gets hit by more hurricanes than any other.

Three months later, Hurricane Irma smashed into Florida.

A report being released on Monday shows Florida isn’t alone in easing up on building regulations even as the effects of global warming escalate. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety examined building policies in 18 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and found that despite the increasing severity of natural disasters, many of those states have relaxed their approach to codes — or have yet to impose any whatsoever.


“There’s no longer the automatic assumption that codes are good,” Julie Rochman, the head of the institute, said in an interview. “We just have an incredible capacity for amnesia and denial in this country.”

That trend leaves residents more vulnerable to climate change; it also puts states at odds with the Trump administration, which is struggling to cope with record disaster costs — costs that tougher building codes are meant to reduce.

The shift toward less rigorous codes is driven by several factors, experts say: Rising anti-regulatory sentiment among state officials, and the desire to avoid anything that might hurt home sales and the tax revenue that goes with them.

And fierce lobbying from home builders.

States’ reluctance to adopt building codes has worried federal officials, who are stuck paying to rebuild homes that get wiped out by natural disasters.

“Our strongly held belief is that strong and enforced building codes are among the best primary mitigation efforts that can be undertaken,” Nick Shufro, FEMA’s assistant administrator for risk management, said in an interview.

As the insurance institute’s report shows, FEMA has had limited success in getting states to come around to that view.

In 2016, FEMA proposed a rule that would reduce the generosity of federal disaster aid for states that fail to prepare for extreme weather — for example, by imposing mandatory, up-to-date building codes. States lobbied against the idea, and the Obama administration didn’t pursue it.

Fugate, the former FEMA head who led the coalition against Florida’s codes overhaul last year, predicted that even as the effects of climate change worsen, states will continue to favor lowering the cost of construction — as long as the federal government keeps paying to rebuild those homes.

“The reason states and local governments can get away with crappy homes is because somebody’s always bailing them out,” Fugate said. If FEMA really wants to change states’ behavior, he added, it should change the name of the agency’s spending programs.

“I think we should quit calling them disaster funding,” Fugate said, “and just call them government bailouts.”

Not just Florida and the Southeast.
Here in the midwest, increasing large precipitation events are making formerly dry neighborhoods flood-prone, and expanding the boundaries of flood plains.
Changing precipitation exacerbated by development with no consideration of wetland management.
California, well, after the wildfires come the floods.


More frequent and intense wildfires are making it harder for homeowners to find and keep insurance in California, a state regulator warned Thursday.

“The problem of insurance availability is going to expand” after last year’s record-breaking wildfires, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in an interview Thursday. He said growing rates of non-renewal and rate increases for people in wildfire zones are “entering a critical stage.”

Wildfires were already pinching the availability of coverage in large sections of the state, new data show. The number of homeowners in fire-prone areas who complained about getting dropped by their plans increased 250 percent from 2010 to 2016, Jones’s department reported Thursday. In the 24 counties with the greatest wildfire risk, the number of policies canceled by companies increased 15 percent between 2015 and 2016 alone; in at least six of those counties, that number grew by more than 50 percent.

California was struck by a series of wildfires starting last fall that damaged or destroyed more than 14,700 homes, according to the regulator. Those losses resulted in “more than $9 billion in insured damages so far.” One Southern California fire started in December, known as the Thomas Fire, burned more acreage than any other blaze in the state’s history.

The pressure on California’s market is a warning for states elsewhere, according to climate and industry experts. The number of acres consumed by wildfires each year has doubled since 2000, according to federal data. The Union of Concerned Scientists warns that warmer and drier conditions caused by climate change will mean even more fires. Meanwhile the number of people who live in the most fire-prone areas keeps growing.

“We used to have in this country a wildfire season, and now we have wildfire risk in multiple states all year long,” said Julie Rochman, president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, an industry-funded research group that looks at how to make homes more resilient to extreme weather. She said rising premiums in California reflect the growing exposure to wildfires, and people in other states could gradually see their rates become harder to afford as well.


3 Responses to ““We Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Building Codes. Taxpayers will Bail us Out.””

  1. […] via “We Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Building Codes. Taxpayers will Bail us Out.” | Climate Denial Cro… […]

  2. pendantry Says:

    This post just makes me think: ‘homo fatuus brutus’.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    “We just have an incredible capacity for amnesia and denial in this country.”

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