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USF survey finds that many homeowners don't realize they're unprotected from flooding risks

Aerial view of flooded streets
Rebecca Blackwell
Trucks and a resident on foot make their way through receding floodwaters in the Sailboat Bend neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, April 13, 2023. Over 25 inches of rain fell in South Florida since Monday, causing widespread flooding.

The USF St. Petersburg study showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believe that they have flood insurance, while less than 5% actually have coverage.

A new survey by researchers from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Customer Experience Lab found that most U.S. homeowners remain unprotected from floods.

In addition, it found that there are varying risk perceptions among different age groups.

The annual report, made in collaboration with Neptune Flood Insurance, showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believed that they had flood insurance.

The St. Petersburg-based Neptune is the country's largest private flood insurance provider.

Despite flooding being among the most common natural disasters in the United States — causing an average of $5 billion in damage each year — less than 5% of the homeowners polled actually have flood insurance.

52.6% of respondents said that flood risk was a minor factor in their home purchase decision, while 23.6% said it was a major factor.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly one in five homes in the United States will experience a flood during a 30-year mortgage.

The study suggests that many homeowners perceive purchasing flood insurance to be confusing, which could relate to the fact that, until recently, theNational Flood Insurance Program was the only provider and educational source for homeowners for over five decades.

The survey also revealed a growing divide by age when it comes to flood risk perceptions — suggesting differences in understanding of the repercussions of global warming.

More than 63% of respondents aged 18 to 34 see a moderate or high risk of their residence flooding in the next five years, while about 48% of those over 50 agree.

In addition, only 6% of those 18 to 34 see no risk at all of their residence flooding over that period, while that number doubles to more 12.5% of individuals 50 and over.

For more findings from the research, click here.

João Victor Pina is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for fall of 2023.