Nearly 10% drop in flood insurance coverage in RI after rate hikes


PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — Nearly one in 10 Rhode Islanders with flood insurance have dropped their coverage since December, Target 12 has learned.

Statewide police numbers fell from 11,104 on Dec. 31 to 10,133 on July 31, a decrease of nearly 10%, according to data from the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.

The policy cut comes after FEMA raised rates in April based on a new system called Risk Rating 2.0, which aims to charge higher premiums for riskier homes. But the result in Rhode Island is that nearly 55% of single-family homes will see an increase in costs between $12 and $120 per year. The graph below shows the increases and decreases by month.

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Jon Nelson, a professor of environmental studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, told Target 12 he’s not surprised at how many people have abandoned their policies.

“People may be saving $100, $120 a year, but the risk they’re taking in doing this is really quite substantial,” Nelson said. “Especially if you live near a river, you should reconsider dropping this policy.”

Nelson said areas with rivers, creeks or creeks like Pawtucket, Foster, Providence, West Warwick and Hopkinton have seen the biggest premium increases.

This suggests that FEMA is concerned about areas that flood easily during large storms, according to Nelson.

Conversely, areas along the coast like Westerly, Warwick, Newport and Portsmouth saw the biggest declines.

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Nelson said houses at risk of flooding near rivers, streams and creeks “usually belong to the poorest people, as these are high risk areas and were traditionally centers for industry and their labor- of work”.

The end result, he said, is that FEMA’s increased rates target Rhode Island’s most disadvantaged communities.

And if low-income residents choose to drop their policies, Nelson said they may not be able to afford the cost of disaster recovery.

“The lower your income, the more of your wealth is held in your home,” Nelson said. “Their family wealth accumulates by paying off their mortgage – which could be wiped out in a single event.”

Nelson said when too many homes don’t have policies, it’s a ripple effect: people won’t be able to rebuild their homes, cities and towns will lose their tax base, and municipalities won’t be able to afford to build schools and maintain roads.

“We need to think longer term in the state about these resilience issues,” Nelson said. “Unless people come out and support their elected officials to start tackling this problem, it’s not going to happen.

Tolly Taylor ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook


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