The pandemic and rise in remote working have given many homeowners the opportunity to choose where they want to live. Among their deciding factors, climate has become increasingly important. Natural disasters are becoming more common, according to the United Nations. Homeowners are paying attention to climate change and how it threatens their livelihoods — and their homes.

63% of homeowners who moved during the pandemic believe that climate change is or will be an issue in the place they now live, according to a Redfin survey of U.S. homebuyers and renters who have moved to a new home since March 1, 2020.

Homeowners are more likely to spend time researching climate issues before moving. Of those surveyed who researched climate issues before deciding where to move:

  • 53% of homeowners researched climate issues; and
  • 28% of renters researched climate issues.

Homeowners are twice as likely as renters to have researched climate issues before moving, mainly due to the fact that homeownership is a long-term commitment. California real estate now faces the threats of rising sea levels and more wildfires. Homebuyers are considering how climate change will affect their real estate investments.

Beyond its long-term implications, climate change is impacting homeowners in more immediate financial ways through increasing insurance rates. All of these factors are pointing towards migration patterns shifting away from areas with higher climate risks. In the next decade, we are likely to see more homeowners migrating to lower-risk areas. Though, in California, from wildfires to droughts to flooding, it can seem that no region is safe from the perils of climate change.

Climate change preparedness 

We’ve learned the hard way from recent years’ California wildfires that natural disasters can completely demolish real estate, putting homeowners, builders, and lenders at risk for great financial losses. That’s why it’s more important now than ever that builders construct housing that is resilient to climate change or invest in areas that are naturally resilient to climate change.

Here in California, three cities made the top ten list in the U.S. for major cities that are the most at risk of fire damage. San Jose is first place in the entire nation for the highest at risk, followed by Los Angeles and Sacramento, according to Redfin.

On the other side of the coin, builders need to also consider our current housing crisis. Homebuyers are not only looking to move to areas with less volatile climate conditions, but also seeking homes that fit their low-to-mid tier budgets.

Legislators need to work fast and efficiently with builders to produce more low-to-mid tier housing that is fire adapted. No damage or partial damage is better than full damage in terms of protecting the builders’ and homeowners’ investments.

Fire adaptation is when local multi-jurisdictional stakeholders willingly work together to identify risk, mitigate it, and maintain the work over-time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foundational tools of fire adaptation include:

  • a local multi-jurisdictional mitigation group to share risk reduction responsibility in the community;
  • a community wildfire protection plan (CWPP) to identify where wildfire risk exists, outlines ways to reduce or mitigate that risk, and help do the risk reduction work on the ground;
  • hazardous fuels treatment inside and around the community on public and private lands;
  • a volunteer or career fire department or fire protection association to reduce risk from wildfire and ready to respond should a wildfire occur;
  • resilient structures that are built to be less susceptible to ignition from embers – the primary cause of structure loss, and
  • wildland urban interface (WUI) codes and ordinances to define best practices for construction and location of new development in a WUI community and outline resilient materials for developments.

For more information on fire adaptation tools and how to get involved, visit the Forest Service website.

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