Coastwide
Flooded street in the Broad Channel section of Queens in New York on March 3, 2018. Credit: Don Emmert Getty Images

Rising Seas Soaked Home Owners for $16 Billion over 12 Years

The threat of flooding has driven some buyers away and caused losses in property values

Sea-level rise has cost homeowners on the East and Gulf coasts nearly $16 billion in property value as floods and the threat of flooding drive some buyers away, according to a study released this week.

Analysts at the nonprofit First Street Foundation in Brooklyn studied millions of residential home sales in 17 states from Maine to Alabama and found that coastal property values were rising at a slower rate in flood-prone areas than in areas that did not flood.

“The market is already reacting,” First Street Executive Director Matthew Eby said. “There’s no longer a conversation of what sea-level rise will do in 2050 or 2100.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney said the study shows the need for “a serious, coordinated approach to confront the real threats posed by climate change. It’s clear that climate change already is having real effects in Delaware—the lowest lying state—and in states across our country.”

Carney, a Democrat, said Delaware has worked with a coalition of governors called the U.S. Climate Alliance to cut carbon emissions. “We cannot afford to delay action on this issue,” Carney said in an emailed comment.

The slower appreciation rates are affecting both expensive vacation properties in places such as the Hamptons in New York and middle-class homes in communities such as Norfolk, Va., Eby said. Although much of the $16 billion in eroded value occurred in pricey coastal communities, middle-class areas saw the largest percentage of loss, Eby said.

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