Thursday, June 20, 2024

People Are Flocking to These Areas Despite Climate Change Hazards

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Americans are moving in droves to areas of the U.S. that are most likely to experience flood damage, according to a recent analysis by Redfin.

Nowhere is that truer than in Florida, which is home to eight of the 10 counties with high flooding risk that experienced the greatest uptick in residents over the past two years.

Overall, 384,000 more people moved into than out of the most flood-prone U.S. counties during 2021 and 2022. That marked a 103% increase from the two years before that.

Floods aren’t the only climate hazards that are common in places that attracted large numbers of new residents during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Counties with the highest wildfire risk had 446,000 more people move in than out. That is a 51% rise over 2019 and 2020.
  • Counties with the highest heat risk had 629,000 more people move in than out. That is a 17% rise over 2019 and 2020.

Redfin notes that counties in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah that face higher risks related to fire, heat and drought are welcoming large numbers of new residents, partly due to their relatively affordable housing.

In its analysis, Redfin looked at both domestic migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau and climate-risk scores from First Street Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to helping people understand climate change risks. In a summary of the findings, Daryl Fairweather, Redfin deputy chief economist, says:

“It’s human nature to focus on current benefits, like waterfront views or a low cost of living, over costs that could rack up in the long run, like property damage or a decrease in property value. It’s also human nature to discount risks that are tough to measure, like climate change.”

The situation could worsen over time. Redfin says a growing percentage of new homes are being built in areas that could feel the full brunt of climate change. Among homes built so far in this decade:

  • 55% face fire risk
  • 45% face drought risk

Fairweather notes that thus far, Americans who buy homes at high risk of damage during a natural disaster have largely been insulated from the cost of repairing or rebuilding their home, thanks to insurance policies and government disaster programs.

However, that might be changing, Fairweather notes in the Redfin summary:

“But with natural disasters intensifying and insurers pulling out of disaster-prone areas including Florida and California, Americans may start feeling a greater sense of urgency to mitigate climate dangers — especially if their home’s value is at risk of declining.”

For more on the growing risks facing homeowners who live in disaster-prone regions, check out “5 Insurers That Are Leaving Florida — or Already Have.”

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