Which properties receive taxpayer dollars again and again to fortify homes against rising seas? We don’t know.
The federal government considers the addresses that receive taxpayer dollars through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to be confidential, and won’t identify them.
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this year spent two months piecing together the story of a Scituate, Mass. house that collected taxpayer-financed flood claims at least nine times in the past 35 years. Its owner was in the process of applying for her second taxpayer-funded grant in a decade to elevate the $1.2 million home.
But we don’t know if she got it.
NECIR believes this information should be made public. Taxpayers have a right to know if the government is spending their dollars wisely, especially in awarding repeated grants to elevate and fortify homes against rising seas.
In late February, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NFIP, for the addresses of homes (not names of homeowners) in New England that have received these grants, as well as the type and amount of the grants and years they were awarded.
FEMA denied our request, saying that releasing the information would violate the homeowners’ right to privacy. We are now appealing that decision.
Some communities already release the addresses of these properties. At least one court case has decided that releasing those addresses is in the public interest. The addresses requested could reveal important information about repeated requests for money for fortification and shed light on whether they are actually unsustainable locations. We’ll keep you posted.