Roy Wright presents invited testimony to House Subcommittee
Connie Bryant Breedlove
Senior Director of Communications
Public Affairs Manager
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2021 – Today, in invited testimony presented before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, Roy Wright, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) called on Congress to pave the way for resilient communities through infrastructure legislation. Wright outlined the need for an all-encompassing approach to resilience and climate adaptation with action steps necessary from the federal government down to individual homeowners.
“In addition to the pandemic, 2020 should also be remembered as the year that climate change busted in the front door of American families. We must adapt, and adapt now,” Wright said.
During the “Building Smarter: The Benefits of Investing in Resilience and Mitigation” hearing, Wright made the case for residential resilience, detailing the known vulnerabilities to natural disasters and pioneering research IBHS conducts to identify tangible construction and retrofitting solutions needed to reduce losses.
“Strengthening our resilience to natural perils and climate change is among the most pressing challenges we face as a nation, but solutions are within our reach,” Wright explained during his testimony. “Americans are not powerless against severe weather—it is possible to reduce the damage inflicted today and in the future.”
Highlighting federal legislation as essential to addressing residential resilience, Wright described four congressional pathways for strengthening American homes to better prepare families and communities for severe weather and a changing climate:
1. Encourage strong, statewide building codes,
2. Promote resilient retrofits with financial incentives,
3. Make resilience available for all, and
4. Optimize existing federal pipelines for resilience funding.
“Residential resilience should not be a luxury only available for those with financial means,” stressed Wright during his testimony as he emphasized the importance of making resilience attainable for more Americans. “Providing a higher degree of financial support to ensure residential resilience is available to disadvantaged populations is not just a matter of equity and public health – although it is both – it is a responsible investment of tax dollars.”
Highlighting the commitment of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to build affordable housing to IBHS’s FORTIFIED standard, Wright pressed Congress to support similar sustainable housing projects by mandating resilience investment set-asides in all appropriations for affordable housing.
Wright detailed opportunities to make existing FEMA programs like the Building Resilient Infrastructures and Communities (BRIC) program more effective and equitable and break down barriers for underserved communities. For instance, greater flexibility in a state’s 25 percent cost-share would make BRIC more meaningful for underserved communities.
To incentivize resilience for homeowners of financial means, Wright continued to call on Congress to consider tax credits for resilience as proposed during the 116th Congress in the “SHELTER Act” (H.R. 3462) and the “Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act of 2020” (H.R. 7979).
Wright also urged the Subcommittee to be champions of resilience and climate adaptation in upcoming infrastructure legislation, detailing among his suggestions that Congress should ensure that the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard applies to all funds expended under any new infrastructure bill being considered by the full Committee and expand the Standard to apply to other natural hazards like wind and wildfire. Wright noted that too often public buildings and facilities are not built resiliently or insured and instead contribute to the resilience and insurance coverage gaps.
“The failure to make resilience to severe weather and a changing climate a central component of new infrastructure is a missed opportunity that will result in higher disaster relief costs for generations to come,” Wright said.
Wright joined IBHS in 2018 after serving FEMA as chief executive of the National Flood Insurance Program and deputy associate administrator leading resilience programs. Under his leadership, the nonprofit translates top-tier research into actionable solutions, including the FORTIFIED program to strengthen homes and businesses, informs the insurance industry, and supports thriving communities.
About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)
The IBHS mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss. Learn more about IBHS at DisasterSafety.org.
About FORTIFIED Home
Please visit fortifiedhome.org to learn more about the IBHS FORTIFIED Home program, including the designation process, how to identify a certified FORTIFIED evaluator and other valuable resources.