In our previous post, we identified the degree to which flood maps in the Federal Reserve’s Second District are inaccurate. In this post, we use our data on the accuracy of flood maps to examine how banks lend in “inaccurately mapped” areas, again focusing on the Second District in particular. We find that banks are seemingly aware of poor-quality flood maps and are generally less likely to lend in such regions, thereby demonstrating a degree of flood risk management or risk aversion. This propensity to avoid lending in inaccurately mapped areas can be seen in jumbo as well as non-jumbo loans, once we account for a series of confounding effects. The results for the Second District largely mirror those for the rest of the nation, with inaccuracies leading to similar reductions in lending, especially among non-jumbo loans.
An often-overlooked aspect of flood-plain mapping is the fact that these maps designate stark boundaries, with households falling either inside or outside of areas designated as “flood zones.” Households inside flood zones must insure themselves against the possibility of disasters. However, costly insurance may have pushed lower-income households out of areas officially designated a flood risk and into physically adjacent areas. While not designated an official flood risk, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and disaster data shows that these areas are still at considerable risk of flooding. In this post, we examine whether flood maps may have inadvertently clustered those households financially less able to bear the consequences of a disaster into areas that may still pose a significant flood risk.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was designed to reduce household and lender flood-risk exposure and “encourage lending.” In this post, which is based on our related study, we show that in certain situations the program actually limits access to credit, particularly for low-income borrowers—an unintended consequence of this well-intentioned program.