Government exploring ways to incentivize homeowners insurance, particularly in the family islands

Government exploring ways to incentivize homeowners insurance, particularly in the family islands
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government is exploring ways to incentivize homeowners, especially in the Family Islands, to insure their homes.

Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest yesterday described the issue as ‘critical’.

Speaking with reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting, Turnquest said: “As in most family islands you will find that the insurance uptake is very very low.

“That is a critical issue that we have to address as a government going forward because that exposure typically falls back to the government to provide the backstop for those persons who find themselves in an unfortunate situation where they would have lost everything.”

Turnquest said: “Even when we talk outside of hurricane risk even fire risk, when there is a disaster it falls on the community or the state to assist. We need to figure out some ways to incentivize and to offer programs so that people can have more of an opportunity to participate in that risk sharing program we call insurance.

“We are looking at active ideas that may be able to help with that situation. In Grand Bahama, in the east and the west, they are not much different than the rest of the family islands.”

He continued: “Those persons would have built their homes themselves, inherited their homes and so there would not have been an obligation to a lending institution for instance to carry insurance.

“Because of the cost of insurance they may have elected not to. This is an area we really have to educate the community about because while insurance is expensive it’s only when you do not have it and an event happens that you realize how valuable how that coverage is and most of us cannot afford to replace a home or major asset out of our pockets because we are not disciplined enough about saving like that and the level of bank accounts show that.

Turnquest said: “It is a problem. We are trying to find some creative ways to incentive the public to take up the insurance.

“We want to be able to help lower the cost of insurance provided by the insurance companies and we are going need ideas from the public on how to achieve that goal because we know that this is not an isolated instance.

“The magnitude of this particular one may be historic but it will happen again and we have to be prepared.”

Turnquest also noted that the government is working on an assistance program for persons whose homes were impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

“The government is working on an assistance program. It will not be enough to replace a home but hopefully for those who have sustained medium to moderate damage it will help those persons get back into their homes as quickly as possible,” said Turnquest.

A report by the Department of Social Services titled “Post-Hurricane Social Trends in Grand Bahama”, state a large majority of homes on the island were uninsured.

According to the assessment, 99 percent of homes in East End were uninsured. In West End, 96 percent were uninsured and in the Freeport area, 70 percent were uninsured.