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Fortifying Housing Against Climate Change

As the hurricane season approaches, a white paper by the Urban Institute's Next50 has given insights into what is being done by states across the country to protect homes from climate change and what steps can be taken to mitigate any future challenges.

The report looks at what it would take for the government and housing agencies to ensure that households across the country live in "a physically secure home and a stable community that's prepared for the effects of climate change." It makes a case for efforts that must focus special attention on supporting underresourced communities.

Though a lot needs to be done to mitigate the risks posed by climate change, the report points out that housing is one area where such steps are already underway and must be strengthened to improve the lives of communities living in areas most affected by weather phenomena.

The report gives examples of some emerging ideas to "alleviate climate-related upheavals. For housing, these ideas include:

  • Retrofitting homes to better protect them from disaster, and providing insurance discounts to homeowners that do, such as in Alabama’s fortified home program
  • Promoting parametric insurance pools and cooperatives, which estimate property damage based on environmental benchmarks (like wind speeds) and issue payouts when those benchmarks are met, rather than delaying payouts until the actual damage can be assessed
  • Coordinating actions across government agencies—especially emergency management services, housing, and food assistance—in the aftermath of climate events, along with community and economic development investments to provide the rudiments of a “climate safety net,” as is being done in California and Memphis

Looking at future solutions, the report indicates that various cities and towns across the United States are "exploring more fundamental reforms to land use, building techniques, and property rights that respond adaptively to climate change’s increasing effects." It gives the example of new governance models such as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact and Bay Area Climate Adaptation Network, "since climate effects don’t respect jurisdictional boundaries."

Another future solution, according to the report is relocating communities to safer ground through property buyouts. "We expect that these bold solutions will ultimately occur in deserts as well as low-lying coastal and river communities," researchers at Next50 said in the report. Click here for the full report.

This June 5-6 at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, the Five Star Disaster Symposium will be examining climate change and the challenges facing the housing and mortgage sectors in the years to come. To learn more, and to register to attend, click here.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and editor. A former Online Editor and currently a reporter for MReport, she is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.
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