Nevada City, CA – Supervisor Heidi Hall met last week with congressional staff to discuss possible wildfire insurance solutions.
Many Nevada County homeowners have been dropped by insurance providers and have had to get costly fire insurance through the California FAIR plan because no private company will insure them. Even more alarming, insurance for fire department buildings has doubled or even tripled.
Similar problems are happening across the country due to an increase in extreme weather events related to climate change. Some low-income housing projects nationwide have been stalled because of the high cost of insurance.
“We’re looking for help from anybody and everybody,” Hall said. “There’s no one magic bullet on this.”
Hall would like Congress to hold hearings with experts who could craft solutions. Some ideas are:
- A federal backstop that could help provide fire insurance when none is available.
- Insurance providers giving a meaningful discount to homeowners who have done costly work to harden their homes (i.e. removing trees to create a defensible space around the home, installing vents on the home to prevent fire embers from coming in, installing dual- pane windows to prevent them from cracking under heat).
- Federal regulations to keep non-admitted insurance companies from overcharging and pulling out of the market. Non-admitted insurance companies aren’t required to follow the same state regulations as admitted carriers.
- Considering reducing insurance requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on low-income housing.
Hall discussed these ideas with staff working for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon as well as Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.
Hall stressed that private insurance companies are still needed. “We need to help make the market functional and we need a federal backstop from the market failure.”