How will the new flood cards affect the value of my home?
Rising sea levels, extreme temperatures and increasing precipitation threaten to cost Canadians billions of dollars. A new study charts the way forward to protect communities, roads and the electricity grid before costs get out of hand.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are unknowingly buying homes and relying on infrastructure in areas at high risk of river floods, extreme temperatures and rising seas, a new report warns.
In what researchers claim is the largest study to date on the impacts of climate change on the country’s infrastructure, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices (CICC) says Canada is walking blindly towards a multibillion dollar bill. dollars.
“You get these municipalities that are kind of caught between land and sea, where they face a higher risk of flooding because there is so much valuable infrastructure and so many houses crammed in there.” says Deborah Harford, former executive director of SFU’s Adaptation to the Climate Change Team and an expert consultant for the CICC.
The future costs of flooding, extreme heat and more rain are expected to extend beyond homes and businesses. Up to half of Canada’s growth over the past 45 years has come from investments in public infrastructure, including roads, water pipes and bridges to the power grid, telephone lines and broadband internet. Much of this is falling apart, or for many indigenous communities, never existed in the first place.
To bring the infrastructure to an acceptable level, it would take an investment of 250 billion dollars, say the authors.
But wait too long, and the coming decades of extreme temperatures and flooding would add billions more to the annual bill.
HIGH RISK PRIVATE HOUSES
There are huge gaps in our understanding of how such catastrophic damage will play out.
We know that people’s homes should bear the brunt of the risk. Of the total value of infrastructure in Canada, nearly 85 percent is in private homes, according to Statistics Canada.
Current national flood risk maps, which are used to purchase insurance, educate homebuyers and help plan new infrastructure, are 20 to 25 years out of date, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
This means that at least half a million buildings at risk of flooding are not identified on current government flood maps, and “hardly any of them show how climate change may affect future risk. flooding, ”notes the Under Water study.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada is already transforming from an organization primarily there to insure against fires, to one that increasingly focuses on flooding, says Harford. But only a fraction of Canadian homeowners understand the risk they face. A 2016 survey showed that about 45 percent of Canadian homeowners have insurance that will cover flood damage, when in fact only 10 to 15 percent are actually covered.
This risk is not shared equally across the country.
In British Columbia, the number of homes at risk for storm surges is expected to increase 44% by the turn of the century to almost 70,000. That’s more than any other province in the country.
Metro Vancouver is a hot spot for such risk. Part of the reason for this is high property values - about $ 30 billion worth of homes and buildings are less than one meter from current sea level. But many municipalities in the region are also facing the double pressure of rising waters and a massive river system.
“We have our airports, we have our port, we all have, you know, this very valuable infrastructure in Vancouver; we have large areas like Richmond and Delta and Surrey, which are exposed to both sea level rise and the Fraser River, ”says Harford.
Between 2070 and 2100, annual flood damage in Metro Vancouver is expected to climb to $ 510 million per year, a 17-fold increase in a low-emissions scenario; and up to $ 820 million per year, or 27 times the present value, in a high emissions scenario.
All of this should trickle down to individual owners. Fifty years from now, average individual property damage is expected to reach $ 4,400 per year in Metro Vancouver, more than seven times the current cost.
“In booming real estate markets such as Vancouver and Toronto, this means that buyers of property – from individual homeowners to commercial real estate investors – are likely paying too much for homes and buildings that fall in value when their flood risk becomes. apparent, “the report warns.
Previous research has revealed that all levels of government have failed. In a February study distributing flood preparedness bulletins, provinces across the country received an average grade of C for their work; the city of Vancouver, meanwhile, received a C- after failing in critical infrastructure protection, land use planning and public health protection.
But experts say without updated flood maps, the three levels of government and the private sector will not have a common blueprint for action.
In 2020, the federal government launched a task force to examine the viability of a national low-cost flood insurance program.
And in last month’s election, the Liberal Party vowed to step up efforts to update national flood maps.
Until that happens, huge risks will not be disclosed to property buyers, mortgage lenders and holders of mortgage-backed securities – a risk that extends to the destructive potential of wildfires, heat and permafrost.
Once these weather-induced flood risks are cleared, the real estate market should experience a correction, and homeowners are likely to face a confluence of rising insurance rates, zero coverage, and falling real estate values. , according to the Under Water study.
The report warns that as property values in affected areas decline, home and business owners are likely to be at risk of hemorrhaging wealth and defaulting on their loans. Increasing this increase and the economic consequences could spill over into consumer spending, lending and credit, and wholesale economic growth.
“There’s a kind of political fear around that, around the sudden perception that all of a sudden your house is on display in a way that couldn’t have been seen before,” says Harford.
PREVENTING FLOOD DAMAGE
When it comes to coastal flooding, British Columbia is projected to incur 68% ($ 820 million) of the annual damage costs in Canada by 2070.
But by deploying a combination of levees, elevated buildings and beach power, the report’s authors say the province could reduce that bill by 90% to $ 60 million per year.
The report did not consider other adaptation measures, such as green infrastructure and restoration of coastal wetlands, both of which can slow flooding from heavy rains and rising waters.
For communities along inland waterways, the report went further, envisioning and costing a strategic retreat. For buildings and infrastructure facing the highest risk of inland river flooding, the authors calculated that government buyback programs would save money in the long run. Early retirement, they said, means homeowners would get fair market value before it’s too late.
CLIMATE-TIGHT RAIL, ROADS AND ELECTRICITY
The cost of repairing roads, railways and power grids could be significantly reduced if public and private funds are proactively invested in repaving roads, deploying temperature sensors, and updating power infrastructure with materials. more resistant.
Without such action, by mid-century extreme temperatures and precipitation could lead to a 20% increase in annual spending to repair damaged roads, according to the report’s authors. This is in addition to the $ 20 billion already spent each year on Canadian roads.
“These costs will hurt the bottom line of municipal governments – which are responsible for most of the roads in Canada – and ultimately impact residents due to higher taxes, poor road conditions and delays,” notes The report.
Such delays could potentially lead to massive supply chain disruptions as trucks and trains are stranded. Alberta, Quebec and Ontario, which have the most extensive road networks in Canada, are expected to be the hardest hit.
That is, unless changes are made.
Modifying asphalt mixtures on roads so they can withstand the extreme summer heat, increased precipitation and more frequent freezes and thaws could reduce growing climate costs by up to 98% by 2070.
Track temperature sensors allow railway operators to refine speed instructions for trains. Deploy them on the nation’s rail network and operators would have a tool to avoid blanket orders and reduce delay costs by around 80% by the end of the century, the report said.
Power grids, meanwhile, are vulnerable to extreme winds, ice storms and heat, all of which are expected to worsen as climate change disrupts historical weather patterns.
To avoid blackouts or power outages on hot days, the report suggests building transformers and transmission lines that can withstand extreme heat.
Reinforce wood electric soundings with steel braces, and you may delay replacement as they rot under increased precipitation and heat, the authors suggest.
The report says that despite the obvious benefits of investing in infrastructure early, progress has been limited and owners of private infrastructure have largely ignored long-term planning in favor of “short-term budgets and balances”.
That, Harford says, must change.
“We have time, but we don’t have time to do nothing.”
Stefan Labbé is a solutions journalist. That means it explains how people react to issues related to climate change – from housing to energy and everything in between. Do you have a story idea? Get in touch. Send an email to email@example.com.