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Rising Seas Threaten Hundreds of Thousands of Homes as Building Continues in At-Risk Areas

A new analysis by Zillow and Climate Central shows that hundreds of thousands of coastal homeowners are expected to feel the devastation of rising seas from climate change within just three decades

- Thousands of new homes have recently been built in areas that are at risk of chronic flooding within just a few decades. In more than half of the nation's coastal states, homes have recently been built in risk zones at a higher rate than in safer areas.

- Overall, nearly 400,000 current homes are expected to be at risk of regular flooding by 2050, because of rising seas caused mainly by climate change. Moderate emissions cuts would reduce that number by about 10 percent.

- The effects vary locally. Homes in some communities would likely be largely unaffected by midcentury while others - in Texas and the Northeast, for example - could suffer far greater flood threats.

Nov 13, 2018

SEATTLE and PRINCETON, N.J., Nov. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Some 386,000 U.S. homes today are likely to be at risk of regular flooding by 2050 because of sea-level rise from climate change, under a scenario of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis by Zillow and Climate Central. What's more, America's coastal communities have recently built thousands of new homes in these flood-risk zones, contributing to this total.

A new nationwide analysis that pairs Zillow's housing data with Climate Central's climate-science expertise isolates the number of new homes — and homes overall — in low-lying coastal areas, projecting how many will become exposed to chronic ocean flooding over the coming decades, depending on the choices the world makes around greenhouse-gas pollution today.

The findings are available in an interactive map displaying the flood-risk zones, a sea-level tool detailing the number and value of homes at risk by location, a research report on the threat to new housing and a brief on the dangers to housing stock overall.

Moderate emissions cuts could reduce the number of current homes in at-risk areas to 348,000 by 2050. Because the effects of climate change will worsen over time, the estimates for the year 2100 are far higher: 1.3 million current homes are anticipated to be at risk of regular flooding if emissions are cut moderately, and 2.5 million homes — worth $1.3 trillion — if emissions grow unchecked.

As sea levels rise, the intermittent floods that coastal communities now experience on average once a year are projected to reach farther inland than they do today. Those floods can damage and devalue homes, degrade infrastructure, wash out beaches, and interrupt transportation systems and other aspects of daily life. They also put homeowners, renters and investors in danger of steep personal and financial losses.

"This research suggests that the impact of climate change on the lives and pocketbooks of homeowners is closer than you think. For home buyers over the next few years, the impact of climate change will be felt within the span of their 30-year mortgage," said Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research and outreach. "Without intervention, hundreds of thousands of coastal homes will experience regular flooding and the damage will cost billions."

Coastal communities will encounter the effects of sea level rise to greatly varying degrees, depending on the local rate of rise, local tides and storms, the potential future development of coastal defenses, the flatness of the landscape and where homes are built within it. Some major coastal cities — including Los Angeles — sit high enough above sea level that the biggest hit — even as far out as 2100 — will be to their beaches.

Others will suffer more far-reaching and damaging effects.  About 10 percent of homes in Galveston, Texas, and seven percent in Ocean City, Maryland, are projected to be at risk of at least annual flooding by 2050, if the world makes moderate emissions cuts — numbers that rise to nearly half of the homes in each community by 2100.  By the same year, Hoboken, N.J., and Miami Beach, Florida, could see three-quarters or more of their homes at risk of at least annual flooding, if emissions remain unchecked.

What's more, new homes are still being built at striking rates in areas that face high risks of future flooding. In New Jersey, for example, seven percent of current homes are projected to be in flood-risk zones by 2100, under moderate emissions cuts. But because of ongoing development, 14 percent of the state's homes built from 2010 through 2017 are in the same high-risk areas.

"The combination of Zillow's data with Climate Central's coastal analysis has given us our most detailed picture yet of U.S. homes at risk from rising seas," said Dr. Benjamin Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of Climate Central. "And we have discovered that many communities are growing faster in areas facing chronic future floods than they are in higher areas. It's difficult to plan for higher seas if you are busy digging deeper holes."

Zillow

Zillow is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help. In addition, Zillow operates an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau led by Zillow's Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. Dr. Gudell and her team of economists and data analysts produce extensive housing data and research covering more than 450 markets at Zillow Real Estate Research. Zillow also sponsors the quarterly Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, which asks more than 100 leading economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists to predict the path of the Zillow Home Value Index over the next five years. Launched in 2006, Zillow is owned and operated by Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:Z and ZG), and headquartered in Seattle.

Zillow is a registered trademark of Zillow, Inc.

Climate Central

Climate Central is a non-profit science and news organization providing authoritative information to help the public and policymakers make sound decisions about climate and energy.

 

SOURCE Zillow

For further information: Matt Kreamer, Zillow, press@zillow.com, OR Simon Engler, Climate Central, sengler@climatecentral.org


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