Remote workers move to areas more prone to natural disasters

  • With the rise of remote work, more and more Americans have the freedom to live wherever they want.
  • Data from Freddie Mac shows that a growing share of people are moving to areas more prone to natural disasters.
  • This is especially the case in Florida, a pandemic housing hotspot that has seen severe flooding and storms.

It’s not just historically low mortgage rates that have encouraged millions of Americans to buy homes during the pandemic, for many the shift to remote working has allowed them to seek homes in areas that offer them more great accessibility and better access to nature.

But as homebuyers migrated from densely populated cities to suburbs and suburbs, new research from mortgage giant Freddie Mac warns that an ever-growing number of Americans are exposing themselves to various natural hazards via their move. They highlight what are described as “high risk” areas, or places that are more vulnerable to droughts, wildfires, coastal flooding and earthquakes.

Freddie Mac’s research suggests that net migration to these high-risk areas has doubled since the start of the pandemic, as more people move to places more prone to wildfires, droughts and hurricanes. However, the trend has also led to more Americans, especially those in the West, leaving more earthquake-prone areas.

The public-private giant analyzed nearly 30 million Freddie Mac loan applications for the purchase of owner-occupied homes over a 22-year period, then combined that data with FEMA’s National Risk Index, a dataset and online application that identifies most-at-risk communities up to age 18. natural hazards — including those mentioned above.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a shift in demographic migration,” the Freddie researchers wrote, adding that the search for new housing has “pushed many Americans from expensive coastal markets to areas of the country more exposed to various natural hazards”.

The disappearance of the daily commute to the office has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for where and how Americans can live. As more American employees have the option of working remotely, it’s no surprise that many have chosen to move across the country. But as environmental factors linked to global warming lead to more natural disasters, migrant homebuyers can put themselves at risk – it could end up costing them dearly in the long run.

“People may not be aware of these hazards as they move through an area, but they become evident after a disaster,” the Freddie researchers wrote, adding that “natural hazards cover the United States, but some neighborhoods are more at risk than others”.

Flordians are the most exposed to natural disasters

Indeed, some US real estate markets – especially Florida cities – are more vulnerable to natural disasters than others.

The state has experienced five federally declared disasters since 2000 due to flooding and suffered severe damage to housing from several major hurricanes and tropical storms.

Over the past two years, disaster relief needed for Hurricanes Ida and Sally, as well as tropical storms like Claudette and Cristobal, have cost the government, taxpayers and insurance companies millions of dollars. Florida. It even led several large insurers like John’s Insurance and Southern Fidelity to pull out of the state altogether.

However, despite the environmental and financial risks associated with Florida, transplant home buyers continue to flock to the area for its relatively affordable housing market, low taxes, and business-friendly ecosystem.

According to Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the home-buying hotspot grew by approximately 329,717 new residents between April 2020 and April 2021. The organization projects that by April 2027, the population of the Florida will have an average of 294,756 net new residents per year, or an average of 808 every day.

This is particularly alarming, given that scientists and ecology experts predict that over the next 20 years rising sea levels and frequent storms will likely increase environmental destruction in the state, as well as its mortality risk – which EDR says could end. to the point of costing residents, new and old, billions of dollars.

“More than any other U.S. state, Florida is susceptible to tropical storm damage, and climate change is expected to increase those risks,” EDR analysts said, adding, “Stronger storms not only pose risks to human lives and prosperity, they also reduce regional economic output in the short and long term.