Toss them a lifeline

Published 6:20 am Saturday, February 3, 2007

By Staff
The continuing increase of coastal residential development in North Carolina could be slowed or even stopped by something related to that development — the rapidly rising cost of insurance.
And in South Carolina, which is experiencing a housing boom in its coastal area, a state House subcommittee is looking for ways to reduce soaring insurance rates. That’s something North Carolina lawmakers should be studying.
Homeowners in coastal North Carolina know about higher insurance costs. Homeowners in Beaufort, Hyde and Washington counties will see a 25-percent increase in their insurance premiums.
But a house built in Raleigh doesn’t face the same threat from a hurricane that a house on the coast faces. That’s why insurance costs for coastal property owners are, in most cases, higher than for property owners in the Triangle or Triad.
That’s something that doesn’t need explaining to coastal homeowners and other property owners.
Although there are people and organizations that would like to see coastal development slowed to a crawl, if not stopped completely, there’s little doubt that coastal development will continue despite obstacles such as increasing insurance rates.
Earlier this week, real-estate brokers discussed the matter with the subcommittee.
Real-estate brokers aren’t the only ones worried about the rise in insurance costs. One South Carolina resident, who lives in a Garden City condominium that’s two miles from the Atlantic Ocean, said his insurance premium increased from $500 to $3,900. The man said he and his wife took second jobs to pay the higher cost.
Of course, people who decide to live in coastal areas prone to being struck by hurricanes should expect insurance costs related to their residences to be higher than people who live inland. And with the Carolinas being a frequent target of hurricanes, that means insurance companies are paying out millions, if not billions, of dollars to settle insurance claims.
Because of the money they’re paying out, insurance companies are increasing premiums. That’s how the insurance industry operates.
But unless lawmakers in the Carolinas can find relief for people like Hester, some people who have lived in coastal areas most, if not all, of their lives may be forced to move to places where it’s more affordable to live. The coast may become a place where only the rich can afford to live.
Unless something is done, a way of life that’s long been an integral part of the coastal Carolinas could die. It’s time for those with the power and authority in the Carolinas to throw a lifeline to people like Hester.