If we were a culture that took climate change seriously, the tenor of this article would be completely reversed. As written, the article suggests that it is a problem that the high cost of insurance is preventing people from moving to high fire risk areas. Thus:
The refusal of insurance companies to cover homes in fire-prone areas is prompting home buyers to cancel purchases and look elsewhere.
That’s depriving struggling rural areas of one of their most reliable sources of economic oxygen — the steady influx of well-off retirees and other transplants from Sacramento, the Bay Area and other prosperous areas.
“It’s another … hardship that’s hit because of the wildfire issue,” said economist Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific. “We tend to see lower incomes in those areas. People are attracted to them by the housing affordability and rising insurance costs put a real dent in that.”
Pounded by two straight years of catastrophic wildfires, insurers are raising rates, abandoning long-standing customers and refusing to write new policies. Many homeowners are forced to purchase from unregulated “surplus” carriers or the California FAIR Plan, a bare-bones policy that acts as the state’s insurer of last resort. The resulting coverage can cost up to triple what a traditional carrier would charge. Some desperate homeowners are getting quotes of up to $10,000 a year.
Realtors said this translates into lost business. Home buyers give up on purchases, or their lenders scuttle the deal because the borrowers no longer qualify for their loan.
Every single person who does not move into a high fire risk area is a success story. (Also true for floodplains, also true for water short areas.) It is a shame that the State does not have vigorous policies to keep people from moving into fire’s way, but if the same goal is being achieved by insurance companies accurately passing the cost of increasing risk onto those households, well, at least that’s a start.
In a culture that were genuinely afraid of the climate crisis, the same article would have my headline, a quote from a local fire chief who is pleased that he won’t have to defend some rural cabins, and quote from someone who lost their house to wildfire last year and wishes they hadn’t bought. There would be more from insurance executives, explaining how they priced the risk and how it is unfair to compel Californians as a whole to subsidize that risk pool.
The phenomenon that this article describes, that people are becoming aware of the magnitude of the risk (translated through money in an insurance bill) and hence, not moving themselves to the risk is a good thing. After a few more fire seasons, it’ll be reported that way.
So long as I’m talking to reporters, I’ll add that people who lived through foreseeable natural disasters shouldn’t be labeled “survivors” any more. It glorifies them and sets the stage for rebuilding in place. After all, that label makes them, by nature, someone who survives stuff. A better term for them would be “escapers.” “Escapers, this time”, would be even better.
This, from the same article:
Meanwhile, the inventory of unsold housing is piling up in the foothills. Janice Wechsler, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the rugged Foresthill area of Placer County, said the problem is worsening as homeowners, irate over rising insurance premiums, seek to get out. She’s hearing of longtime residents of the area looking at moving to Nevada, Oregon and Idaho.
“They’re being canceled, they’re watching their rates tripling or quadrupling,” Wechsler said. “It becomes the proverbial straw. They say, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’”
is fucking nuts. There is no appreciable difference in fire risk between where they live and their destination. They’ll just be underinsured when the fire comes.