As Development in Flood-Prone Areas Continues, Cities Are Slow to Respond

Drawn by affordable property, low taxes, and job opportunities, high numbers of Americans continue to move to flood-prone areas even as the threat of catastrophic flooding grows.

1 minute read

October 5, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Despite growing flood risks, developers continue to build—and cities continue to approve—housing in threatened areas and flood plains to accommodate growing populations. An article by Anna Phillips in the Washington Post describes the lack of urgency shown by many cities when it comes to planning for future disasters. 

Yet “In 2019, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that hurricanes and tropical storms cause about $54 billion, on average, in annual damage across the United States.” However, “Realtors aren’t required to disclose the flood history of the properties they sell and finding that information can be difficult. In addition, many of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps are decades out of date and don’t account for sea level rise or flooding from sudden rain storms.” This means people continue to move to flood-prone areas of the Southeast, attracted by mild climates, affordable housing, and job opportunities. According to Phillips, “Census projections suggest the Southeast will see the largest population gains over the next two decades, through 2040.”

Some cities are starting to update building codes, encourage inland development, and fortify their shorelines against future flooding. “But these types of projects are still relatively rare and, so far, most have not attempted to slow down development,” Phillips points out.

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