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Zillow Research Director: It's 'Tragic' That We're Building In Flood-Prone Zones

An analysis released last week shows that nearly 20,000 homes built in the past decade are at significant risk of chronic coastal flooding by 2050 — and yep, Florida leads the way.

Zillow Research Director: It's 'Tragic' That We're Building In Flood-Prone Zones
A mapping tool lets users imagine properties in sea-level-rise scenarios. Above, Lincoln Road in Miami Beach in a worst-case scenario.

Florida would have the most homes in the zone at risk from sea-level rise and 10-year floods by 2100 (1.58 million), a report combining real estate data from Zillow with sea-level-rise information from Climate Central found. New Jersey, Florida and North Carolina have allowed the most homes built in risk zones, more than 9,000, since 2010.

"This research suggests that the impact of climate change on the lives and pocketbooks of homeowners is closer than you think," Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research and outreach, said in a statement. "For home buyers over the next few years, the impact of climate change will be felt within the span of their 30-year mortgage ... It is doubly tragic that we continue to build brand new units in areas likely to flood."

The report uses the 10-year-flood zone as a metric because sea level rise is expected to make those kinds of incidents — which historically have a 10% chance of happening in a given year — reach farther inland than they do today.

"Those floods can damage and devalue homes, degrade infrastructure, wash out beaches, rust out car underbodies, promote mold, and more,” the report stated.

The analysis found that, nationwide, if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked, more than 800,000 existing homes worth $451B would likely experience a 10-year flood by 2050. By 2100, the figures rise to 3.4 million existing homes worth $1.75 trillion.

An interactive map lets people preview what specific properties might look like under various sea-level-rise scenarios. The image above shows what Lincoln Road — a major shopping destination on Miami Beach — would look like in 2100 under an “extreme scenario.”

Last week, Florida regulators approved rate hikes for state-run Citizens Insurance, the “insurer of last resort," the Sun-Sentinel reported. For 29,212 policyholders in Broward County, the hike means the average premium will increase from $3,057 to $3,351 — 9.6%. Policyholders in Palm Beach County will get an average 4% rate hike, and policyholders in Miami-Dade County will see their rates go down by 3.5%. It had been high in recent years partly because of fraudulent claims.

"In many states, building on land projected by 2050 to face chronic flood risks has outpaced development in safer places," said Benjamin Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of Climate Central. "Failure to control climate pollution will lead to faster-rising seas and bigger coastal risk zones, but building a cleaner-running economy can still reduce these consequences."