In South Carolina, so many of us enjoy living on or near the water. But in recent years, too many of us have been living in it.
Homes in South Carolina are flooding more often. That’s a simple fact.
The reasons for this are debated across our state and across the nation, but those living in Horry County or Charleston — or anywhere else near the coast or a river — know flooding is now a part of life.
And it is costing all of us a lot of money.
There are more than 300 homes in South Carolina that the government classifies as “severe repetitive loss properties,” meaning they have been flooded and rebuilt an average of five times.
Another 750 South Carolina homes have flooded at least twice, and the ultimate cost for repairs falls to taxpayers through the federally funded National Flood Insurance Program and other federal grants.
In Charleston alone, the NFIP has dished out $18.3 million to fewer than 100 chronically waterlogged homes.
We’re throwing good money after bad, and we can’t sustain this.
That’s why I am sponsoring the “South Carolina Resilience Revolving Fund Act,” which aims to end this expensive cycle of floods and fixes.
In the simplest terms, it will be a fund of state and federal dollars to purchase repeatedly flooded properties.
Local governments would request low-interest loans from the fund, purchase these often-inundated properties from voluntary sellers, and restore the properties to open space.
Not only is this a commonsense approach to a growing problem, it also makes sound fiscal sense.
Moving people out of floodplains reduces the amount of money needed after an emergency. For every $1 we spend on preventing flood damage, we save $6 on disaster and emergency services. For each home bought and razed, that’s one less rescue for our firefighters and police, one less family in need of temporary housing, and one less claim on our already overburdened federal flood program.
And the open spaces made available under this plan will better absorb encroaching water.
Last year’s hurricane season was miserable and tragic for South Carolina, particularly in my district. Hurricanes Florence and Michael took both lives and property.
The previous two years brought swamping rains from Hurricane Matthew while Charleston suffered historic flooding from Tropical Storm Irma, even though the center of the storm passed 200 miles offshore.
Time and time again, the same homes succumb to rising waters, only to be bailed out by taxpayer-funded insurance programs. If we can offer our neighbors escape from their often-drowned houses, we will save money in the long run.
There are safeguards in the bill to ensure money is properly spent to aid families with their primary homes.
Funding also would be prioritized to buy groups of homes to provide the greatest net benefit. And there would be a financial incentive to keep families in the area. I want families moved out of the floodplain, not moved out of town.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a bailout for rich folks who can’t sell their soggy estates. This is a bill to help regular, hardworking South Carolinians who are enduring these so-called hundred-year floods every few years.
Many of them just can’t afford to move. But at the same time, taxpayers can’t afford for them to stay.
Sen. Stephen L. Goldfinch is the Republican representative of District 34. His bill is S. 259 and has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.