As the floodwaters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recede, they may reveal more than moldy drywall and fetid trash. They could lay bare the federal government’s failure to police a basic tenet of its own disaster policy: that properties with government-backed mortgages in risky areas carry flood insurance.
The government has known for decades that homeowners in flood zones often don’t have the insurance they should. Just two years ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that as few as half of the 1.5 million residential structures required to carry flood insurance actually do. It can’t be sure, though: FEMA isn’t responsible for tracking that kind of data—nor is any other agency.