Coastal Flooding Is Erasing Billions in Property Value as Sea Level Rises. That's Bad News for Cities.
High-tide flooding is eating away at the coastal property tax base just when communities need it most to adapt to climate change and repair the damage.
High-tide flooding is a growing problem in many coastal communities as the planet warms and sea level rises. New research shows the impact it's already having on home values. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Rising seas have already eroded coastal property values from Maine to Mississippi by billions of dollars over the past decade as buyers pay less for homes in neighborhoods where high-tide flooding is creeping in, a new report shows.
The loss in property values points to a compound problem for coastal communities: Just as accelerating sea level rise forces governments to build flood walls and repair infrastructure more often, it may also eat away at the property tax base that provides many cities' primary revenue stream for funding that very work.
"This is a real negative feedback loop," said Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If they don't start to recognize these issues and reports like this and open their eyes to what is definitely happening, they're going to find themselves in pretty dire straits."
The analysis, published Wednesday by First Street Foundation, estimates that property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017. Florida, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina each saw more than $1 billion in losses.
Sale Price: $35.00 $22.75 You save: $12.25
As cities build more flood-management infrastructure to adapt to the effects of a changing climate, they must go beyond short-term flood protection and consider the long-term effects on the community, its environment, economy, and relationship with the water.
Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise, by infrastructure expert Stefan Al, introduces design responses to sea-level rise, drawing from examples around the globe. Going against standard engineering solutions, Al argues for approaches that are integrated with the public realm, nature-based, and sensitive to local conditions and the community. He features design responses to building resilience that creates new civic assets for cities. For the first time, the possible infrastructure solutions are brought together in a clear and easy-to-read format.
The first part of the book looks at the challenges for cities that have historically faced sea-level rise and flooding issues, and their response in resiliency through urban design. He presents diverse case studies from New Orleans to Ho Chi Minh to Rotterdam, and draws best practices and urban design typologies for the second part of the book.
Part two is a graphic catalogue of best-practices or resilience strategies. These strategies are organized into four categories: hard protect, soft protect, store, and retreat. The benefits and challenges of each strategy are outlined and highlighted by a case study showing where that strategy has been applied.
Any professional or policymaker in coastal areas seeking to protect their communities from the effects of climate change should start with this book. With the right solutions, Al shows, sea-level rise can become an opportunity to improve our urban areas and landscapes, rather than a threat to our communities.