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Climate crisis to triple flooding threat for low-income US homes by 2050

climate change

A new study has found that affordable housing in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California will be at particular risk.

The amount of affordable housing in the US vulnerable to coastal flooding is set to triple over the next 30 years, a new study has found in a further sign of the escalating hardships faced by low-income Americans amid an unraveling climate crisis.

Affordable housing in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California is at particular risk of flooding from worsening storms or even high tides pushed on by rising sea levels, according to research conducted by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organization.

Currently, 7,668 affordable housing units across the US can be expected to flood in a typical year but this number is set to balloon to 24,519 units by 2050 if planet-warming emissions aren’t drastically reduced. Even if big greenhouse gas cuts are made, a similar number of houses and apartments may still flood due to heating already locked in from decades of fossil fuel use.

“Cutting emissions makes a huge, life-or-death difference in the second half of the century but there will be a growing need to build resilience and adapt no matter what we do now,” said Benjamin Strauss, chief executive and chief scientist of Climate Central.

The researchers used maps of low-cost and federally subsidized housing and analyzed how these dwellings are affected by current levels of flooding as well as expected flooding in the future as the world warms further.

“Wealthy communities have the resources to undertake projects to adapt to sea-level rise and build new infrastructure,” she said. “Furthermore, some of that infrastructure may in fact make the impacts of sea-level rise even worse for adjacent communities. For example, a sea wall that protects one community will just push even more water into the adjacent areas that cannot afford to build a sea wall.”

Dutton said that adaptation to the rising seas needs to protect all communities, with the importance of low-paid but essential workers underlined by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Ensuring the health and wellbeing of essential workers is critical to maintaining a functioning economy,” she said. “In that sense, investing in the future security of affordable housing is of primary importance.”

The article was originally published by Oliver Milman,


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