When Category 5 Hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas in 2019, the storm ravaged the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, leaving tens of thousands of residents homeless. In the month following the storm’s aftermath, nearly 4,000 Bahamian refugees migrated to the United States — most of which settled in South Florida.
Of course, Florida will experience its own climate migration in the coming years as intense storms decimate its coastal communities, among others across the country. As a result, several regions should anticipate a wave of migrants and former coastal residents seeking higher ground.
Studies have predicted direct and indirect sea-level rise will significantly increase by 2100. Thirteen million people may be affected by direct flooding, while indirect flooding could displace 25 million.
According to a recent Urban Institute report, large-scale climate migration could widen the gap between housing supply and affordability. Their analysis found a 9% population increase in Cuban migrants corresponded with an 8% to 11% increase in rent in Miami.
It is difficult to predict the future housing market amid volatile weather conditions. Yet, federal, state and city governments are not sitting idly. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency reserved $500 million in funding in August 2020 for various mitigation and pre-disaster construction projects for vulnerable communities. The goal is for cities to build a more resilient infrastructure that empowers residents to remain settled in climate-safe zones rather than flee.
Many migrants move to nearby inland counties to avoid climate change impacts anyway. Creating highly-resilient safe spaces is crucial for the influx of new residents within and outside susceptible areas.
Experts agree climate migration is inevitable as more people aim to protect themselves and their assets from extreme weather events and natural disasters. Cities can improve resilience within their housing markets to accommodate these residents in several ways.
For example, ramping up multifamily housing on vacant lots will safeguard the future housing supply. Solar panel micro-farms on available land are another possibility for cities to tap into more widespread renewable energy. Utilizing green technologies and equipment — such as those that operate on rechargeable batteries — eliminates carbon emissions for these purposes and is an environmentally-sound solution for greener construction.
Additional items cities and the housing market should factor into their climate resistance strategy include the following:
- Upgrade water and waste facilities
- Build a more robust and sustainable public transportation system
- Invest in public schools and community programs that meet the needs of vulnerable populations
- Generate a locally-grown food source to minimize food deserts
- Ensure the availability of affordable housing
Forecasts suggest 62.5% of the world population will reside in cities by 2050. Many Americans already live in and around metropolitan areas for work. Therefore, comprehensive environmental urban planning is the surest way to support life and the economy within these communities.
Keeping up with the housing demand will likely be the most significant challenge — over 3 million people were left homeless in the U.S. in 2022 due to climate change disasters. As time passes, coastal communities in flood-prone zones and increasingly hot regions will see the largest migrations. Where people will primarily end up remains unknown — a sound reason for more cities and surrounding areas to adopt climate resilience plans, widespread multi-family housing and green infrastructure.
Climate change will undoubtedly change the way many people live. For those residing along the coast, climate change delivers potential disasters and uprooting. Cities should prepare their housing markets as more people move away from vulnerable areas. Building more climate-resistant havens can offset some of the overcrowding various cities and towns will experience.
See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co
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