How the Housing and Climate Crises Are Connected
Among the many problems facing our modern world, the climate and housing market crises are two of the most significant. They might seem like independent issues on the surface, but climate change has a major impact on where you can live and what structures you can build.
Here are the notable ways climate change has worsened the housing crisis and what can be done to solve both problems.
Global temperatures have risen by about .17 F every decade since 1900. 2021 was the seventh consecutive year when global temperatures reached 1 C over pre-industrial levels. Even the slightest temperature increase can drastically affect weather patterns and environmental conditions.
When it comes to real estate, an uptick in heat increases the costs of homeownership. You have to pay more to run your utilities, especially air conditioning, fans and other appliances. Warm temperatures also require homeowners to use more water to maintain yards, plants and fields.
The prices for water, electricity and essential utilities are increasing as demand rises. Urban and suburban centers have suffered the most from these price hikes and feel the strongest effects of the heat. Urban building materials like brick and steel retain heat, turning cities into urban heat islands with high costs of living.
Rising Sea Levels
Sea levels are rising by .14 inches every year, which equates to a 3.6-inch increase from just 30 years ago. That rate figures to accelerate as we continue to emit greenhouse gases and pollute ocean waters with trading, fishing, dumping and other invasive activities. Collapsing ice sheets from global warming are also major contributors.
These numbers suggest communities at or below sea level could be in jeopardy in the near future. Some studies have found more than 300,000 coastal homes worldwide will face regular flooding by 2045. Of course, the housing markets in these areas would also collapse if frequent flooding occurred.
Tropical regions like Central America, the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific will experience significant losses of habitable land in the 21st century if sea levels continue to rise. Coastal home sales have dropped in high-risk areas of the United States. However, prices remain expensive because waterfront property is still a limited commodity.
Despite the drop in sales, rising sea levels aren’t a major concern to homebuyers yet. They seem to think the sea-level rise won’t affect their property in their lifetimes. Some even believe our current damage control efforts can hold back the waters. Their optimism might pay off for now, but it could come back to haunt them in a few decades.
Rising sea levels could trigger a mass inland migration that skyrockets the demand in housing markets and bumps home prices even higher than they are right now. Regions in the United States with the lowest cost of living, including the Deep South, the Midwest and the Sun Belt, could get overwhelmed with new inhabitants and lose their affordability.
Densely populated areas suffer the most from rising temperatures. Many homebuyers will have to face a difficult decision between excessive heat and excessive flooding, which drive down property values and make it harder to sell. As a result, low-income families could become trapped in high-risk areas because they can’t sell their homes and can’t afford to move.
Extreme weather events have significantly impacted housing markets in various climates. 2020 had a devastating hurricane season that stormed through Atlantic coastal communities. Wildfires in California and other parts of the Southwest have destroyed millions of acres of land. The 2022 tornado season is expected to be even more violent than last year.
When a natural disaster strikes, you have to pay for property damage or pay extra for more home insurance coverage. More money comes out of your pocket in either case, tightening budgets and making relocation more difficult. Some insurance providers in high-risk regions have even raised their premiums, making coverage unaffordable for low-income households.
However, paying for home insurance or property damage seems like a blessing when considering the third scenario. A weather event can wipe out an entire neighborhood. This could change the layout of the local housing market and increasing prices in unaffected areas nearby.
Those forced to relocate have no negotiating power, either overspending to stay local or moving to a town with cheaper options. Extreme weather events displace families and even entire housing markets, leaving many people homeless with nowhere to go.
What Can We Do?
We must develop more prudent building habits, reduce our carbon footprint, and create durable yet energy-efficient structures in domestic and commercial settings to solve the climate and housing crises. This task starts from the ground up, literally and figuratively.
We should start by studying and appreciating our locations more extensively as the demand for space increases. As urban centers, neighborhoods and businesses expand, we must account for all environmental risks and create structures to peacefully coexist with their surroundings rather than clash with them.
Instead of using cheap carbon-based materials like steel, concrete and drywall, we can make natural items like wood, stone and recycled options the primary ingredients of our buildings. We can also incorporate more heat and fire-resistant materials to make our homes cooler and more resistant to extreme weather events.
Although those big-picture ideas will certainly help, our day-to-day actions will determine the future. Each of us have to hold ourselves to higher environmental and ethical standards to create sustainable communities.
We must store and dispose of waste properly, utilize renewable energy sources and limit utility consumption. We must also use eco-friendly travel methods and buy locally sourced products to stabilize the climate and housing market. Widespread change won’t happen overnight, but every day of efficient action brings us closer to a solution.
Take Action Today
The interconnected climate and real estate problems might be beyond the control of one individual, but a united world could take these crises head-on. Start by taking action today in your own community. Even if we don’t solve the problems in our lifetimes, we will have created a more sustainable way of life for future generations to build upon.