September 2018

IZA DP No. 11810: The Effects of Flood Insurance on Housing Markets

published in: Cityscape, 2019, 21 (2), 129-156.

We analyze the role of flood insurance on the housing markets of coastal cities. To do so we have assembled a parcel-level dataset including the universe of residential sales for three coastal urban areas in the United States - Miami-Dade county (2008- 2015), New York city (2003-2016), and Virginia Beach (2000-2016) - matched with their FEMA flood maps, which characterize the flood risk level for each property. First, we compare trends in housing values and sales activity among properties on the floodplain, as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), relative to properties located elsewhere within the same city. Despite the heightened flood risk in the last two decades, we did not find evidence of divergent trends, suggesting that flood insurance may have cushioned the effects of the increase in flood risk. Secondly, we analyze the effects of the recent reforms to the NFIP. In 2012 and 2014, Congress passed legislation that led to important increases in insurance premia and updates of flood maps. We fail to find an effect of increases in premia on the values of floodplain properties in Virginia Beach and Miami-Dade, but we do find evidence of an effect in New York coinciding with the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. We also find some evidence of price changes for properties that experienced a change in risk classification in the new FEMA flood maps. We conclude that the full effects of the 2012-2014 flood insurance reforms have not yet taken place but will probably materialize in the future.