For most homeowners, the single largest investment they will make in their lives, and the biggest asset they will own, is their family home. Homes in coastal areas, however, are facing a growing threat from rising seas and other issues, often caused by a changing climate.
Rising seas and chronic flooding impose a serious, long-term threat that can lower property and resale values, leaving homeowners to relocate to safer areas, discount their house, pay recurrent bills for property damage, or eventually find they have an unsaleable property and a mortgage that is, quite literally, underwater.
Research from Zillow shows that more than $900 billion worth of homes in the United States will be impacted by increased flooding and storm damage, mostly in coastal communities. By 2045, $135 billion in a property will be under threat, and almost 300,000 people will be forced to adapt to regular, disruptive flooding, or they’ll need to move.
Homeowners in some high-risk areas are no longer eligible for flood insurance and will have to rely on federal disaster funds. In addition, decreasing tax revenue in some of the most vulnerable towns and cities will mean that essential services – such as police, fire, rescue – will be cut when they’re badly needed.
“In the long run some places will have to be abandoned, but in the short term it’s not clear,” said Dr. Ben Strauss, chief scientist at Climate Central, a non-profit research center that studies the impact of climate change. “It will all depend on how we plan.”
For now, these areas of the United States are most under threat.
The Details: Along the California coast, beach communities face growing land erosion. Record-breaking ocean floods will become an annual event within 20-60 years, according to a Climate Central report. $36.5 billion worth of property and 145,000 people are located on land becoming increasingly flood-prone.
In addition, more than 11.2 million people – 30 percent of the state’s total population – are at greater risk from wildfires, as average mountain spring and summer temperatures climb and mountain snowpacks decrease. There are now three times as many annual fires in California than in the 1970s, according to research from Climate Central.
On the plus side, a National Resources Defense Council study found that California is probably the state best prepared to deal with climate change, having passed acts such as the California Global Warming Solutions in 2006 and the Water Efficiency Bill in 2010. Solar panels are mandatory in all new buildings and the state plans to have 100 percent of energy provided by renewable sources by 2045.