Tariffs will Play Oversized Role in Rebuilding Homes Ruined by Florence

Flood damage is mostly uninsured, so Carolina homeowners will bear the brunt of construction costs inflated 25% by US trade wars

The brunt of the residential cost of cleaning up after Florence will be borne by property owners. With most of the damage coming from flooding rather than wind, insurers will pick up only a small portion of rebuilding costs. Standard homeowner’s insurance policies exclude flood damage, and of the millions of homes in the Carolinas, only 335,000 are covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

“The people that will get hurt the worst are the ones who are least able to afford rebuilding,” said Skip Greene, a contractor in Kinston, N.C. “They’re blue collar, and they tend to live in lower-lying areas, and are less likely to have insurance. It breaks your heart.”

Lumber prices are 40% higher than a year ago, after the Trump administration imposed a 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber late in 2017. Some builders estimate that construction costs could be 20% to 30% higher than they would have been without the administration’s tariffs on not only lumber, but also steel, aluminum and gypsum.

“We’re all going to pay the price for it in terms of higher construction costs,” said Alan Banks, president of the North Carolina Home Builders Association.

(more on tariffs’ impact on Florence rebuilding . . . )