New App Shows Flood Risk

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Miami floods frequently, even absent a storm. Adobe stock photo.

Miami floods frequently, even absent a storm. Adobe stock photo.

Projected increases in flooding in Florida is driving up insurance rates and driving down home prices, and the state has barely started preparing for the two feet of sea level rise expected by 2020.

Flood Factor is a free new app that ranks flood risk for every property in the United States, and the Miami Herald delved into the data to assess the risk in Florida — a state that has already seen large increases in flooding, even on sunny days in cities like Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

According to the new tool, 35 percent of Florida’s 8.9 million homes are at risk of at least minor flooding right now and 10 percent of those, or 900,000 homes, are currently at risk of severe or extreme flooding.

It showed that cities with the most property risk are all over the state, from Tampa — the city most at risk to storm surge — to Cape Coral, to Miami.

The data also highlights cities rarely associated with flooding, including 5,000 homes in Sarasota County’s Warm Mineral Springs, 4,000 homes in the upscale Broward County Lighthouse Point community and the 2,000 Caloosahatchee riverfront homes of Whiskey Creek, according to the Herald.

Flood Factor is the creation of First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group focused on the relationship between property value and climate change.

Previous work includes FloodiQ, a tool that estimates how much value a property has lost due to sea level rise. McKinsey, the global consulting firm, used First Street data in its report that shows Florida real estate at risk of flooding could lose 5 to 15 percent of its value by 2030 and 15 to 35 percent by 2050.

Others have attempted to assess a property’s risk, but Flood Factor is the first to include the combined flood risk from rain, storms, rivers and rising seas, according to the paper. Experts say a tool that gives access to information could shift the real estate market and send property values down in those high-risk areas.

More than 40 researchers worked on Flood Factor for over a year, but the methodology is still in peer review.

Putting this kind of information in the hands of home buyers is a “lightning bolt,” Peter Zalewski, a Miami condo market consultant and investor, told the Herald. “It’s going to create a wedge between buyers and sellers.”

Climate change experts have long advocated for slowing development along high-risk areas, but Florida has been doing the opposite for decades, concentrating new development on the coasts.

Developer Jorge Perez, chairman and CEO of The Related Group, spoke to the Miami Herald about actions that should be taken to control sea rise and global warming.

Check out the video here.

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