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America is building more homes in disaster-prone areas

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ: RDFN) – America is building more and more homes in places threatened by natural disasters, according to a new report from Redfin (redfin.com), the technology-based real estate brokerage. More than half (55%) of homes built so far this decade are at risk of fire, while 45% are at risk of drought. In comparison, only 14% of houses built between 1900 and 1959 are at risk of fire and 37% at risk of drought. New homes are also more likely than older homes to face heat and flood risks, but the gap is greatest when it comes to fires and drought.

That’s according to a Redfin analysis of climate risk scores from ClimateCheck and county records on single-family homes built since 1900 that still exist today. Redfin defines an at-risk home as a home with a moderate, high, very high, or extreme ClimateCheck score. The analysis does not include homes with relatively low scores, which may also face some level of risk.

Overall, heat is the most common hazard, with nearly 100% of homes built in the past two years at risk. Heat risk is based on the number of extremely hot days expected in the future. Next come storms (78%), followed by fires (55%), droughts (45%) and floods (25%). Storm is the single hazard more likely to afflict older homes. This is likely because many older homes in the country are located in the storm-prone northeast.

From an environmental perspective, America is building, rebuilding and subsidizing homes in the wrong places, according to economist Jenny Schuetz, who recently published a book on the subject.

“Areas that are already built up are less prone to wildfires because they’re not surrounded by forests and trees — they’re surrounded by other buildings,” Schuetz said by phone. But “increasingly, we have to build new housing further and further away from city centers because easy-to-use land has been built up and it is often difficult to add more housing in the urban core. … In the West, the areas prone to wildfires are in the undeveloped land, and so the further we go into the undeveloped land, the more the houses will be in danger.

A 2021 Redfin analysis found that more people moved into US counties than out of US counties with the highest share of homes at high risk of natural disasters. Many of these areas attract buyers because they are relatively affordable, have lower property taxes, more housing options, or access to nature. Some buyers are simply not aware of the risks. Redfin.com publishes climate risk data for nearly every US home, except rentals, to help home hunters make more informed decisions.

It should be noted that while new homes are increasingly being built in disaster-prone areas, most US housing stock is not new. Two-thirds of US homes were built before 1990, while about 4% were built in 2014 or later, according to US Census Bureau estimates.

New homes are more likely to face a fire hazard as builders target flammable areas

The share of homes built in fire-prone areas has steadily increased since the 1960s as builders have expanded beyond dense cities and into areas with more flammable vegetation. More than half (55%) of homes built so far this decade are at risk of fire, compared to 19% of homes built in the 1960s and 8% of homes built between 1900 and 1910.

“There’s no more room to build in Salt Lake City, so developers have moved into the surrounding mountains, which are more prone to wildfires and drought. Record temperatures and a lack of snow have turned these areas into a powder keg,” said Ryan Aycock, local market manager for Redfin. “Herriman, a town just south of Salt Lake City, right next to the mountains, attracts tons of builders. Fires were never a big deal when Herriman was mostly vacant land, but now dozens of people are headed for danger.

A fire in 2010 burned more than 4,000 acres and destroyed several homes in the Herriman area after the National Guard conducted machine gun training despite fire and wind warnings. Nearly 40% of all homes in Utah (worth about $220 billion) face a high fire risk, a higher share than any other western state analyzed by Redfin in 2021.

Not only is America building more and more homes in fire-prone areas, but the fires are also increasing in intensity. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the three most destructive wildfire years, in terms of area burned, have all occurred in the past decade.

In Colorado and Arizona, new homes are much more likely to face a fire hazard

In Colorado, 90% of homes built so far this decade are at risk of fire, compared to just 23% of those built between 1900 and 1959. That 66-percentage-point gap is the widest among the states analyzed. by Redfin. Next comes Arizona (97% vs. 38%), followed by Utah (85% vs. 28%), California (91% vs. 39%) and Florida (58% vs. 6%).

A significant portion of home building in the United States takes place in Florida, California, Arizona, and Colorado. Florida has issued about 133,000 building permits so far this year, more than all states except Texas. California ranks third with 72,000 permits, while Arizona and Colorado rank sixth and seventh, with 40,000 and 33,000, respectively. This is partly because these states continue to grow. Florida, Arizona and Utah all rank in the top 10 in terms of percentage population growth from 2020 to 2021, according to census estimates.

New homes more likely to be at risk of drought as builders expand into the Sunbelt

The share of housing built in drought-prone areas has also increased. Just under half (45%) of homes built so far this decade are at risk of drought, compared to 39% of homes built in the 1960s and 28% of homes built between 1900 and 1910.

One of the reasons new homes are more likely to be at risk from drought is that they are likely to be located in drought-prone states like Texas, California, and Arizona. And in these drought-prone states, homes are increasingly being built in neighborhoods that aren’t equipped to deal with drought.

“Residential construction has exploded in Arizona over the past few years as our population has skyrocketed. Builders are heading to more rural and drought-prone areas because that’s where there is available land,” said Heather Mahmood-Corley, Phoenix Redfin real estate agent. “In Casa Grande, a town just south of Phoenix, builders are selling homes despite warnings that there might not be enough water for everyone. In the nearby San Tan Valley, a developer owns a large portion of the wells, allowing him to build without restriction and sell water rights to other developers.

Mahmood-Corley continued, “Builders have done a good job of warning buyers about lack of water, but many buyers don’t pay attention. Often they focus more on finding affordable housing.

In Arizona and Pennsylvania, new homes are much more likely to face drought risk

In Arizona, 75% of homes built in this decade are at risk of drought, compared to 41% of those built between 1900 and 1959. This gap of 34 percentage points is the largest of any state analyzed by Redfin . This is followed by Pennsylvania (56% vs. 28%), Nevada (86% vs. 61%), Missouri (29% vs. 6%) and Idaho (75% vs. 54%).

To view the full report with additional analysis and state-level climate risk data, please visit:

https://www.redfin.com/news/homes-built-disaster-prone-areas

About Redfin

Redfin (www.redfin.com) is a technology-driven real estate company. We help people find a home with brokerage, instant home buying (iBuying), rental, loan, title insurance, and home improvement services. We sell houses for more money and charge half the fees. We also run the #1 real estate brokerage site in the country. Our homebuyer clients see homes first with on-demand viewings, and our loan and title services help them close quickly. Customers selling a home can receive an instant cash offer from Redfin or have our renovation team repair their home to sell for the best price. Our rental business helps millions of people across the country find apartments and houses to rent. Since launching in 2006, we’ve saved our clients over $1 billion in commissions. We serve over 100 markets in the United States and Canada and employ over 6,000 people.

For more information or to contact a local Redfin real estate agent, visit www.redfin.com. To learn more about housing market trends and download data, visit the Redfin Data Center. To be added to Redfin’s press release mailing list, email [email protected] To see Redfin’s press center, click here.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion