Less Building Space Equals More Risk from Natural Disasters

September 19th, 2022 by Travis Rains

New home construction has seen an increased number of residences located in areas facing threats from natural disasters since 2020, including risks associated with fires, droughts and floods. A new analysis from real estate brokerage firm Redfin shows that while 14% of remaining homes built from 1900 to 1959 face fire risk, that figure is higher – at 55% – for homes constructed since 2020.

The analysis utilizes climate-risk scores as well as county records on single-family homes. The report also found 45% of new homes face drought risk, versus 37% for those built between 1900 and 1959. New homes are also more likely to face risks from heat and floods, the latter increasing from 21.3% in older homes to 25.5% in new homes.

“Overall, heat is the most common danger, with nearly 100% of homes constructed in the last two years at risk,” Redfin writes. “Heat risk is based on the number of extremely hot days expected in the future. “Storm is the only risk more likely to plague older homes. That’s likely because many of the country’s old homes are located in the storm-prone Northeast.”

More than 89% of homes constructed between 1900 and 1959 face storm risk. However, that figure has improved by more than 10% in homes constructed in recent years. According to Redfin’s analysis, 78.2% of homes constructed since 2020 come with storm risk.

Economist Jenny Schuetz is cited in the report, saying these figures mean new home construction takes place in the wrong places within the U.S., especially with respect to fire and drought threats. And now 55% of homes constructed since 2020 face fire risk, compared with 19% of homes built in the 1960s and 8% of homes built from 1900 to 1910.

Developers have run out of options in Salt Lake City, says Redfin market manager Ryan Aycock, so they’re moving into the surrounding mountains, which are more prone to wildfires and drought. “Record-breaking temperatures and a lack of snow have turned these areas into tinderboxes,” Aycock says. “Herriman—a city just south of Salt Lake City that’s right up against the mountains—is attracting tons of builders. Fires were never that big of an issue when Herriman was mostly vacant land, but now scores of people are moving into harm’s way.”

More than two-thirds of homes in the U.S. saw construction prior to 1990. Only 4% were constructed in or after 2014, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. For more information, see the full report.

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