Undeterred by climate change, US homeowners are moving to climate-vulnerable areas

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Drone/aerial photography, Miami Beach, Florida. Credit: Alan D Production/Shutterstock via Stacker

Some of the most desirable real estate in the United States is in areas considered to be at high risk of wildfires, floods or droughts. Despite this current and growing danger, many American homeowners continue to relocate to climate-vulnerable regions.

It may be because some people are willing to take the risk if it means living in their dream home – an attempt to defy nature for their own pride. To better educate potential buyers, real estate brokerage site Redfin now provides a climate risk assessment for each property, which includes at-a-glance data on flood, drought, heat, storm and of fire. Even with the power of this information, high fire risk homes sell for $120,000 more than low risk properties, according to Refin’s June 2022 report.

As the demand for housing increases, the impacts of climate change also increase. Homebuilders and homebuyers are expanding into vulnerable regions called the urban wildland interface – the area where real estate abuts or intermingles with natural lands like forests or grasslands. A forest without houses in it or along the edge is just a forest. But when developers introduce commercial or residential properties, it becomes a wilderness-urban interface, or WUI. The WUI of the United States, in terms of area, has increased by 33% in 20 years. Almost all of this growth has come from the construction of new housing – around 14 million homes – on or alongside natural land.

Housing along the US coast, particularly on the east coast, is also at risk. Over the next 30 years, sea levels are expected to rise by one foot; in the 80s, up to 2 feet. A matter of centimeters as part of an entire coastline seems insignificant, but this increase will lead to more intense flooding and storm surges. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, moderate flooding could occur 10 times more often in 2050 than today.

Mitigation efforts such as government buyouts of homes in flood-prone areas can be a solution to this problem. It would cost the government $180 billion to buy 1 million flood-prone homes across the country, according to a 2019 report from the National Institute of Building Sciences. Over 100 years, this would result in cost savings of more than $1 trillion that would have been paid into flood and disaster insurance programs, which are subsidized by the federal government.

Traveling, either to a place vulnerable to the climate despite the risks, or away from it for security reasons, is a form of privilege. A 2021 study published by the Environmental Protection Agency found that coastal flooding, extreme temperatures and poor air quality disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations. And for people already living in safe regions, climate gentrification — when affluent homebuyers move from climate-vulnerable areas to new places, driving up house prices and changing culture — is an indirect threat to their lives. stability.

Experts predict that for much of the southern and southwestern United States, a northward push toward more temperate climates is an eventual certainty for those who can afford it, as climate change renders entire swaths inhospitable country and causes serious economic losses.

To better understand the climate-related threats Americans face, Stacker looked at demographic changes due to migration in counties with the highest and lowest climate risk between 2015 and 2019, citing data from the Index. national hazard data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and net migration data from the US Census Bureau. We focused on 2015-2019 because the impacts of the pandemic resulted in abnormal net migration rates across much of the country.

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This story was written by Stacker and has been republished under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

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