Hurricane Dorian revealed that The Bahamas has a need for social insurance to protect properties, Director in the Ministry of Public Works Melanie Roach said Wednesday, explaining that a sobering number of uninsured and underinsured properties could remain destroyed.
Roach, who was speaking at a Bahamas Society of Engineers lunch meeting at The Balmoral, said many people who might have evacuated Grand Bahama and Abaco now cannot afford to move back, because they cannot afford to replace lots, homes and personal items.
“Another constraint is lack of finances,” she said.
“A lot of the persons in those devastated areas do not have insurance. A lot of them, even if they were insured, were actually underinsured and so even if they want to go back, the challenge is can they afford to go back.”
She said a public insurance scheme like National Health Insurance should be explored to assist Bahamians who own homes to insure their properties.
“We have to find a way. The United States has a government flood insurance program,” said Roach. “We need to start planning for the future.”
Roach added that another setback encountered after the storm was homeowners left with destroyed properties without properly transferred titles from deceased family members.
“Some of them don’t even legally own the properties they were living in,” she said.
“It was grammy and grandpa’s property and nobody ever probated it, so legally they don’t even own those. So they can’t even go to a bank to get a loan.”
While the insurance sector and financial pundits are pulling for the government to mandate that property owners insure their premises, Roach said it is simply too expensive for many people to afford to insure after they have completed paying their mortgages, as most homes under mortgage must be insured.
“We need to work with these insurance companies to try and make sure that all Bahamians have access to affordable insurance, because I know what it is to have to pay that insurance every year… and that’s some people’s salary,” she said.
She added that contents insurance is often a forgotten addition that could be just as important.
“It’s one thing to build back your house, but what are you going to sleep on? Where are you going to find money to buy a fridge or a stove? So a lot of money is required to get our communities back to where they need to be,” said Roach.
President of the Bahamian Contractors Association Michael Pratt, who was also a speaker at the meeting, said the lack of insurance on the affected islands have homeowners looking for cheaper ways to rebuild, but he insisted that insurance companies have to aid in ensuring Bahamians can access affordable insurance.
“We need to go and push for the insurance companies to help these people and stop taking advantage of them,” Pratt said.
“These people are only getting half of what they thought they would get in insurance payouts.”