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Swiss Re calls for government subsidies to flood-proof homes

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Swiss Re’s local chief has called on governments to offer subsidies to homeowners so they can afford to pay for flood mitigation measures.

Writing in a blog post, Head of Australia and New Zealand Sharon Ooi backs industry-wide calls for greater government investment in community resilience projects, but says residents can also help drive down premiums.

“Homeowners and business owners can start thinking about how to mitigate flood damage,” she writes.

“Should they remove carpets for floorboards or even polished concrete? Should they install larger roof gutters and drainpipes? Move electronics and other valued items to the upper floors if they are fortunate enough to live in a multi-storied dwelling?”

Ms Ooi accepts this flood protection work could be costly, and says to ensure all can afford it governments should step in.

“For example, government subsidies for the installation of solar panels have been embraced by homeowners.

“Now that we must acknowledge climate change, governments need to help homeowners and businesses adapt and live with the consequences.

“Why not provide policyholders with government subsidies to retrofit homes and businesses or mitigation measures on new builds, including easily accessible roof storage or elevated homes?”

Ms Ooi says flooding is one of the costliest extreme weather events that Australians face, and Insurance Council research shows about one in 10 homes are at risk.

The recent NSW/Queensland flood catastrophe led to record-breaking insured losses of about $3.4 billion.

“We have witnessed residents’ and business owners’ despair as they not only come to terms with the physical damage but often the realisation that this is the new normal, and the fear that their hometown may be uninhabitable,” she writes.

“The word ‘uninsurable’ has become a common phrase. Many of those affected by the floods admit to being uninsured or underinsured because they cannot afford the premiums.”

But she says through mitigation and adaptation, there are solutions available.

“We need preventive measures … and they must go hand in hand with insurance. It’s all about building resilience but we need to do this together – governments, residents, business owners, engineers, builders, the insurance industry, and others.”

Click here to read the full blog post.