The disastrous flooding that followed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is likely to hit homeowners hard in the pocket.
It’s been revealed that just 15 percent of homes in the Harris County area, which includes Houston, are covered by flood insurance, according to CNN. Meanwhile just twenty percent of homes in Corpus Christi, which was also affected by the flooding, have coverage, Fox Business reported.
The National Association of Realtors says the news is a costly reminder of the importance of extending the National Flood Insurance program, which it has been fighting tooth and nail for over the past months.
While most homeowners do at least have standard property insurance, these polices generally only cover wind damage caused by hurricanes. Unfortunately they do not usually extend to damage caused by flooding from storm surges or overflowing rivers, which means many homeowners will be unable to recoup the cost of repairs to their properties once the floodwaters subside.
“This could be the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history,” Greg Postel, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel, told news agency UPI. Unfortunately for homeowners the worst is not even over yet, for weather forecasters predict that the Harvey, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, could dump an extra 50 inches of water on parts of Texas on Tuesday.
The good news for homeowners is that government agencies are mobilizing to provide relief. Federal financial regulators have reportedly told lenders to work with those affected by Harvey to accommodate their needs. Meanwhile, Freddie Mac says it’s offering a number of disaster relief options, including forbearance programs for those living in areas that have officially been declared as “major disaster areas”.
“We strongly encourage the many American families whose homes or businesses are being impacted by Hurricane Harvey to call their mortgage servicer if the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s declaration is announced,” said Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac’s vice president of single-family servicer performance management. “Relief—including forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year—may be available.”
Elsewhere, the Department of Housing and Urban Development if offering its own relief programs for homeowners affected by Harvey. The agency said it plans to reallocate existing funds to the recovery effort in Texas, and will grant a foreclosure moratorium and forbearance in the worst affected areas. In addition, it also said it will provide mortgage assistance to some victims.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are beginning the process of recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “As FEMA begins to assess the damage and respond to the immediate needs of residents, HUD will be there to offer assistance and support the longer-term housing recovery efforts.”