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Most Americans Unaware of Flood Risks, Study Finds

The lack of disclosure laws in most states has led to an overvaluation of homes located in floodplains across the country.
May 10, 2021, 7am PDT | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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George Burba

Many American homeowners "remain unaware of the risks their properties face" because most states have nonexistent or inadequate flood risk disclosure laws, writes Jena Brooker for Grist. "This lack of transparency has created a false real estate market in parts of the U.S., according to new research from Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, found there are almost 4 million single-family homes located in floodplains nationwide that collectively are overvalued by $44 billion based on their flood risk, or an average $11,526 per house."

Because land in floodplains is often cheaper, this disproportionately affects low-income families. "If you’re a household that invested a lot of money into a home in one of these places, we would be extremely concerned about the possibility of that home’s value dropping a lot and really wiping out a lot of wealth in communities that are vulnerable to begin with," says Miyuki Hino, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. "Of the 10 states most at risk of severe flooding in the next 100 years, just three have flood risk disclosure laws — North Carolina, California, and Louisiana, according to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council." 

"The scientists argue their new research isn’t just useful for studying flooding, but can also be applied to other climate change-related disasters that affect housing, including wildfires."

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