But the situation would not be almost so dire without decades of well-intentioned but deeply flawed federal programs.
If governments subsidized car-insurance policies the way they do with flood insurance, we'd see more drunks driving Ferraris around, at the expense of taxpayers. Firms walked away from the business entirely. In Harris County, 25,000 fewer people have flood insurance now than in 2012, according to data analyzed by the Associated Press.
Even some homes on properties designated as hazard areas don't carry flood insurance.
The New Deal enshrined this idea on an unprecedented scale, making the idea of disaster relief central to the modern welfare state.
However, 43 percent of homeowners incorrectly believe that their homeowners' insurance covers them for flood losses. If the risk is high, premiums will be prohibitive, and building will migrate to areas less prone to flooding.
The magnitude of the risk is revealed partly by the numbers of uninsured homes in the paths of the recent storms.
"If you don't have insurance and you're an individual in the home you live in, you need to jump online with FEMA and apply for support", Craven said.
White counseled a far more comprehensive approach.
Other factors also come into play, such as a lack of information, the difficulty of calculating flood risk and the expectation that the government will provide disaster assistance which is rarely the case.
It was a novel idea, but implementation proved problematic in the 1950s and 1960s. It passed a bill in 2012 that would have raised premiums, but after an outcry from numerous 5 million policyholders, Congress changed the program again in 2014 to cap the increases policyholders would have to pay.
About 400,000 homes in the counties affected by Harvey have policies, as do about 500,000 homes in counties along the Florida Gulf Coast.
These inadequate rates also exacerbate the moral hazard created by flood insurance.
In its final report, the task force argued for a comprehensive approach to flood plain management.
The head of the National Flood Insurance Program says early estimates are that Hurricane Harvey will result in about $11 billion in payouts to insured homeowners, mostly in southeast Texas.
So why is the public subsidizing the risk in these places?
White endorsed the idea, hoping it would proceed on "an experimental pilot basis". Don't do it. Instead, contact your insurance agent. Yet development in these precarious spots continues apace.
Congress has tried to reform the program.
Mortgage lenders and servicers that are lax about flood insurance tend to be penalized lightly.
Insurers welcomed the extension but remain hopeful Congress will be able to do more than just renew the existing program between now and December 8. Part of the problem was that this restriction went into effect just as banks started to securitize mortgages.
The government has known for decades that homeowners in flood zones often don't have the insurance they should. Now exactly what interest the government has in seaside homes escapes me, but, nevertheless, since the mid-1960s Uncle Sam has been helping these homeowners insure their homes against floods. "Insurance is run by each state so I don't think the hurricanes in Florida or Texas will affect our rates here in Louisiana", said McCarty.
Congress attempted to fix this mess by passing an overhaul of the NFIP in 2012. That will make everyone feel good for a bit.