Many Californians say they can’t afford flood insurance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Pete Gonzalez opened his mail for the first time since he was evacuated from his home due to flooding over a week ago and laughed at the sight of the eau de cologne he ordered. He said thanks to the flood he couldn’t really call it a home anymore.

“It was our home,” he said. “So now, [we] do not have anything.”

He has lived at Arbor Mobile Home Park in Acampo for nearly 12 years and said the foundation in his home and the insulation have been so watered down that it’s a total loss. Gonzales said he had home insurance but not flood insurance like many of his neighbors.

“I have a lot of water indoors so there is a lot of water damage there. It has already been declared a disaster by my insurance company. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have flood insurance. It’s too expensive, something like earthquake insurance.”

Gonzales and its neighbors aren’t alone in the state when it comes to not having flood insurance.

Flood insurance covers about 2% of real estate in the state. The federal government’s insurance program covers most of these properties. Experts report that many damaged or lost homes are not in flood plains, but instead are affected by rushing or rising water due to problems such as clogged drains and overloaded drainage systems.

Not far from Gonzales, Brian Mulholland, a veteran and insurance broker, said his company has seen an increase in calls related to flood insurance since late December, when the state’s storms began.

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“More than normal, but not as many as expected,” he said. “Most people call to ask if they can combine coverage and it’s a 30-day wait, so most of them didn’t go ahead.”

Mulholland said many people would be priced out of insurance coverage for events like floods and wildfires.

“It’s a budget thing and people don’t really think about it when they buy a house,” he said. “They pay attention to the payments and their lifestyles. I sympathize with people on fixed incomes as inflation hits everyone and insurance costs are rising. The wildfire cost of property insurance rates is skyrocketing and it’s really cutting into people’s budgets. And I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who can’t afford to buy it.”

For Gonzales, although this is the fourth time he’s seen flooding around his home, he doesn’t see flood insurance in his future, he said.

“Honestly, I don’t think so,” he said. “I am now 68 years old. I will be 69 years old this year. Maybe it’s time to travel by motorhome.”

He said the loss of his home is too recent to know where he will end up living.

“You know, honestly, I don’t know. I walk day by day, hour by hour, but I have no idea what I’m going to do,” he said.

Thankfully, Gonzales said he could stay with his son for now.