Story at a glance

  • Scientists used maps of affordable housing around the country and analyzed how these spaces are affected by current levels of flooding and projected flooding with unchecked carbon emissions.
  • The analysis found that more than 7,600 apartments, townhomes and houses across the country are currently exposed to at least one “coastal flood risk event” every year, but that number is projected to jump to more than 24,519 units by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t dramatically reduced.
  • The report shows New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts have the largest share of affordable housing units at risk from coastal flooding in the present and over the next 30 years.

As climate change threatens to cause a rise in sea level, researchers are warning that the number of affordable housing units at risk of coastal flooding in the U.S. is expected to more than triple over the next three decades. 

Researchers from the nonprofit Climate Central analyzed the risk coastal flooding poses to affordable housing — both subsidized and market-driven — in the first national assessment of how low-income housing will be affected by sea-level rise. 


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Scientists used maps of affordable housing around the country and analyzed how these spaces are affected by current levels of flooding and projected flooding with unchecked carbon emissions. 

The analysis found that more than 7,600 apartments, townhomes and houses across the country are currently exposed to at least one “coastal flood risk event” every year, but that number is projected to jump to more than 24,519 units by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t dramatically reduced. A flood risk event happens when coastal water levels reach higher than a building’s ground elevation. 

The report shows New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts have the largest share of affordable housing units at risk from coastal flooding in the present and in 30 years, with thousands of units in each state expected to be impacted. Fewer units are at risk in California, but face a high risk of repetitive flooding. 

“Flood-damaged affordable housing can have long-term consequences for residents, owners, and communities, including increased homelessness, loss of rental income that can make it difficult for housing owners to provide affordable housing, and neighborhood-level economic downturns,” Climate Central reported.

Researchers called for significant resiliency planning such as elevating buildings or building sea walls in affected areas. 

“Inaction could result in high risk for residents who may lack access to sufficient resources to prepare and recover from flooding impacts,” the report says. 

Globally, the mean sea level has increased about 8 inches since 1880. In the past 100 years, it has climbed about a foot or more in some U.S. cities because of ocean currents and land subsidence.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recently warned about sea-level rise acceleration, claiming that by the end of the century, global sea level could rise 8.2 feet above 2000 levels by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.


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Published on Dec 01, 2020