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First Street Foundation

Nonprofit Opening Flood Risk Model to Researchers and Public

A nonprofit flood risk research organization is offering the first publicly available flood risk model that predicts the probability of flooding for homes and properties across the United States.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based First Street Foundation has launched Flood Lab, a research partnership through which it will make the model with data on previous instances of flooding as well as future risks available to eight universities for free, giving them and the public a look at the data institutional investors use to gauge risk.

In exchange for access to the model, the universities have promised to conduct research into flooding’s impact on the U.S. housing market, its implications for lower income and minority communities, and its cost to federal, state, and local taxpayers among other issues.

The collaboration includes experts from Johns Hopkins University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of California, Davis; the University of Georgia; the University of Texas, Austin; the University of Washington;Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.

One of First Street’s objectives is to see properly-calculated flood risk applied to “all insurance rates, mortgages, land use decisions, bond ratings and other financial instruments.” It has been working with universities and the flood modeling firm Fathom to provide flood risk information to individual property owners with information on their own flood risk. Last June it went live with its database at Flood IQ.

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