What’s Your Property Value Flood Risk?

What’s Your Property Value Flood Risk?

by David Prescott, Coastkeeper

Are our homes losing value because of sea level rise caused by climate change? A recent study by Columbia University and the nonprofit organization First Street Foundation say very possibly, yes.

Homes along Westerly's shoreline threatened by rising tides
Homes along Westerly’s shoreline are increasingly threatened by flooding caused by rising tides and storm surge. Photo credit: Harold Hanka

Over the past few weeks, several interesting articles about the study have appeared in both the Providence Journal and Providence Business News. The study found that 2.5 million properties in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine lost $403.1 million in appreciation value because of increased tidal flooding caused by sea level rise. In Rhode Island alone, coastal property appreciation values have lagged behind other home appreciation by $44.7 million since 2005.

The top five Ocean State towns hardest hit are Warwick, Misquamicut, Newport, Watch Hill, and Charlestown, in that order. Not surprising, most on the list are low-lying communities along the south coast. But communities much further up in the Bay, like Warwick and Warren, recorded the largest property value losses.

Should these findings be new to us here? Not at all.

Tools for assessing flood risk

Flood IQ Screen Shot
FloodIQ, developed by First Street Foundation, helps homeowners visualize their home’s flood risk.

Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council and the University of Rhode Island have developed tools to educate the public about changes we have been seeing along our 400 miles of shoreline. Rhode Island’s Shoreline Special Area Management Plan provides many online STORMTOOLS that illustrate where flooding, sea level rise, and storms will hit. “Homeowners can learn how much relative value their personal property missed out on over the 12 year study period and how much value it is projected to lose over the next 15 years at FloodiQ.com,” the Columbia study report said.

So what can we do as homeowners, citizens and communities? Homeowners and citizens must learn how coastal flooding from higher sea levels and more intense storms will affect our communities—both coastal and well inland. If your property value or the safety of your home isn’t directly affected, your commute may very well be.

Storm surge effects in Westerly, RI
Cars drive through flooded areas of Bay Street in Watch Hill as a powerful nor’easter pounded the region’s shoreline on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

Tough Decisions

Coastal communities have some hard decisions to make about their futures, and no one solution will fit all communities. In some cases, raising structures may be a good short-term solution. However, the full cost of rebuilding, raising homes and roads, saltwater intrusion on utilities, impacts to septic systems and coastal access will eventually be too much to bear.

Our position at Save The Bay has always been to consider all solutions – mitigation options such as elevation, soft and hard walled structures, floodproofing, beach replenishment, relocation, retreat.  As a state, one longer-term solution we need to seriously consider is “managed retreat.” Managed retreat (also known as planned retreat) is the strategic movement away from the coast. Beaches are dynamic systems, constantly moving in and out. As our coastline continues to erode and sea levels continue to rise, moving infrastructure and buildings away from the coast allows our shoreline to naturally move inland.

We encourage all who live in the Narragansett Bay watershed (that’s pretty much all of Rhode Island and much of Massachusetts) to use the many free tools available to the public. These tools can illustrate how your personal property may be affected and help you know and understand your risk. Together, we can all better prepare for the future when we are fully informed.

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.

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