IBHS Commends Administration for New Initiative to Make U.S. Homes More Resilient to Natural Disasters and Severe Weather Events

Media Contact
Tiffany Smith
Public Affairs Director, IBHS
Phone: (512) 636-7811
Email: tsmith@ibhs.org
Twitter: @disastersafety

(TAMPA) October 6, 2016 – The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) today commended the U.S. Administration on its new initiative to make the country’s housing stock more resilient to natural disasters and severe weather events, as well as more efficient in using energy and water.

The Administration announced Tuesday that “…increasing risks of property damage due to natural disasters will adversely affect the mortgage market, unless we take steps to address it now.” Specifically, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Agriculture and Veterans Administration “…have informed their lenders, borrowers and stakeholders about the importance of using robust standards designed to strengthen homes and conserve energy and water.” These three agencies administer programs that collectively finance more than 20 percent of the single family home mortgage market, which represents approximately $400 billion dollars per year.

“This announcement is particularly timely with Hurricane Matthew ravaging the Caribbean and threatening landfall in the U.S. The Administration has shown tremendous leadership in the areas of resilience for the built environment. This week’s announcement by Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan is another excellent example of the creative work they are doing to help ensure our country’s housing stock can stand up to extreme weather events, including hurricanes, thunderstorms and tornadoes,” said Julie Rochman, president and CEO, IBHS.

The Administration has been working to strengthen structures when they are built or renovated, and also when they are repaired or rebuilt following disasters so they are safer, stronger and more resilient. This new guidance focuses on wind vulnerability of single-family homes, because this has been identified by the Administration as a particularly large gap in national resilience.

IBHS’ FORTIFIED™ programs are singled out in HUD’s announcement about the new initiative as “robust resilient wind standard[s] validated by third parties. Recent academic research shows that the Fortified Home designation increases home resale values by seven percent.”

“IBHS’ rigorous FORTIFIED Home™ construction standards for building new homes and retrofitting existing homes are based on 20 years of objective, scientific testing at our Research Center, and field investigations before and after disasters. By recommending the use of FORTIFIED standards for homes in high wind areas along coastlines and the central U.S., the Administration is hoping to make a significant impact on the resilience of our country in the face of natural disasters that are continuing to increase in both damage severity and costs to our society,” Rochman noted.

The FORTIFIED Home™ program has been recognized by federal programs for mitigating risks to single- and two-family homes. The standard is a set of best practice engineering and building techniques (in the case of hurricanes, these are the same standards in FEMA’s P-804 Wind Mitigation Guide), which are above-code for most locations. FORTIFIED Home™ requires third-party validation to ensure the standards have been implemented correctly, and it has three designation levels, providing options to fit varying resilience goals and budgets.

“One of the keys to creating a more resilient country is to shift our nation’s focus from post-disaster recovery to pre-disaster preparedness. Communities that prepare for disasters are more resilient – their businesses reopen faster, houses suffer less damage so homeowners return to work faster, and less debris from damaged and destroyed buildings ends up in landfills making resilient communities more green and sustainable. Finally, local property and income tax bases in resilient communities are not disrupted as much when disasters strike, which means fewer government dollars are needed for post-disaster aid,” said Rochman.

“There is an emerging market focused on resilience with some innovative companies leading the way, including homebuilders and manufacturers of building products and materials. With the Administration’s recommendation that federally backed mortgages for a substantial portion of home loans focus on those that use FORTIFIED standards, that market can be expected to expand significantly,” said Rochman.

“This most recent action by the Administration is another step toward driving our country to build forward to become a truly resilient nation with a strong, durable built environment able to stand up to Mother Nature’s continuing onslaughts,” Rochman concluded.

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About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) IBHS’ mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss.