Aerial view of Brighton Beach, New York City

Inclusive insurance:
Promoting the post-flood financial resilience of low and moderate income households

As climate change increases flood risk in New York City, EDF and its partners are pleased to have received a Stage 2 Civic Innovations grant from the National Science Foundation to explore research and policy innovations that improve climate resilience. The Civic Innovation Challenge is a research and action competition to fund ready-to-implement, research-based pilot projects that have the potential for scalable, sustainable, and transferable impact on community-identified priorities.
Civic Innovation Challenge logo

EDF logo

Guy Carpenter logo

NYC Mayor's Office of Climate & Environmental Justice logo
SBP logo

Center for NYC Neighborhoods logo
Global Parametrics logo

Our motivation

New York City, and the region, is experiencing an increase in extreme precipitation events, leading to greater risk of flooding. Research has shown that lower-income residents are disproportionately impacted by disasters, including floods. They typically lack access to the needed financial resources to recover from damaging extreme events. Financial resilience—the ability to recover from an economic shock—underpins other aspects of recovery and is a necessary condition for broader urban disaster resilience. Despite this, it is an under-researched aspect of climate adaptation. And while there has been some work documenting the problems, actionable investigation of solutions is scarce. Our project is designed to fill this gap.


This video was created as part of Stage 1 of the Civic Innovations Challenge.
Aeria view of Queens, NY at sunset

Flooding is the costliest natural disaster and the risk is growing. Low and moderate-income households suffer disproportionately from disasters and recover less quickly than more privileged residents.

Our project

The project’s overarching goal is to increase the financial resilience of low- and moderate-income households in New York City to escalating flood risk through the use of inclusive insurance. Inclusive insurance refers to any program or policy that makes insurance coverage available to those previously unserved or underserved by the market.

Internationally, there has been a growing movement to identify low-cost and appropriate insurance designs and establish public-private partnerships that can guarantee a more equitable recovery, however, these innovations have yet to be widely adopted in the US. Our project will establish NYC as one of the first cities in the US to harness these approaches.

This project is a joint effort between Environmental Defense Fund, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, and SBP. It also involves research and development work with Global Parametrics and technical assistance from Guy Carpenter. Our work is informed by an advisory board of subject-matter experts.

Stage 1 results

The team used Stage 1 as an idea accelerator to examine half a dozen innovative, inclusive insurance interventions and to identify which would be most impactful, implementable, and sustainable. The intensive process involved more than 30 semi-structured expert interviews, exploratory analyses, stakeholder engagement, and consultation with our advisory board.

Our team released an Issue Brief in January 2021 as part of the Stage 1 grant, “Improving the Post-Flood Financial Resilience of Lower-Income Households through Insurance.”  This brief is intended to help policymakers begin the conversation about what new or supplemental policies could help low- and moderate-income households in at-risk areas.

Stage 2 components

  • Deploy innovative insurance pilots


    The key pilot will be the purchase, by CNYCN, of a parametric flood insurance policy designed to rapidly provide emergency cash grants to LMI households in the event of a flood. In addition, R&D will be undertaken on parametric flood policies that community development financial institutions can provide to protect LMI borrowers.

  • Build a community of practice


    The project team is working to build a community of practice among those harnessing risk transfer for improving recovery to climate-related extremes through a workshop and information sharing. The community will facilitate knowledge sharing, spur the generation of new knowledge, enable dialogue, connect people, and support collaboration.

  • Link research to actionable change


    Three research projects will be undertaken, including a survey to quantify the length of delays in various sources of disaster recovery dollars and the costs from these delays; a replicability and generalizability analysis of the project’s insurance pilots; and a typology of the community-level benefits of widespread insurance purchase.

  • Increase literacy and capacity


    We are producing education and outreach materials about flood risk and flood insurance for a variety of stakeholders, training housing advisors and others, and expanding the information available on FloodHelpNY.org.

Project team members

Environmental Defense Fund

  • Carolyn Kousky, Principal Investigator, Associate Vice President for Economics and Policy (ckousky@edf.org)
  • Karina French, Manager, Climate Resilience Research

Center for NYC Neighborhoods

  • Theodora Makris, Senior Policy and Research Associate
  • Jessi Penkoff, Staff Attorney
  • Cristian Salazar, Director, Communications and Digital Products
  • Jessica Wells-Hasan, Vice President of Development & External Affairs


NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice

  • Tallant Burley, Senior Policy Advisor
  • Angela Wong, Senior Policy Advisor


SBP

  • Helen Wiley, Disaster Preparedness Program Director


Guy Carpenter

  • Joseph Becker, Senior Catastrophe Advisor, Hydrologist
  • Jonathan Clark, Managing Director
  • Cheryl Lorenz, Senior Vice President
  • Chris Sykes, Managing Director


Global Parametrics

  • Jerry Skees, Founder and Director


Additional Senior Personnel

  • Stephen Beckage, Unit Head, NYC Office of Management and Budget
  • Carlos Martin, Rubenstein Fellow, Brookings

Project advisory board

Resources