June 17, 2024

Weathering the storm: Climate and homeownership

In recent years, the frequency and intensity of climate events have escalated, leaving many homeowners grappling with the aftermath.

From hurricanes and floods to wildfires and heatwaves, extreme weather conditions pose both immediate dangers and lasting repercussions.

A recent survey from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group found nearly half of homeowners are concerned about climate and its impact. The study also found two-thirds believe their insurance premiums have been affected.

The survey also asked consumers which weather-related events concern them most, and where they're likeliest to turn for reliable information on these topics.

Climate events often wreak havoc on structures. Hurricanes can tear off roofs, flood basements, and uproot trees, while wildfires can engulf entire neighborhoods. Floods from heavy rainfall or storm surges can destroy homes and/or belongings. Rebuilding can be daunting and costly, especially for those without adequate insurance.

Beyond the immediate costs of repairing or replacing damaged property, homeowners in regions prone to frequent weather disasters have seen insurance premiums skyrocket. The effect of climate on property values can further exacerbate financial strain.

Besides physical damage, climate events also pose significant health risks. Wildfires cause poor air quality and may trigger respiratory problems and other health issues. Floodwater contaminated with pollutants and pathogens can pose serious risks, as well.

Climate events also cause mental and emotional distress. Homeowners can be forced to evacuate their properties, which can disrupt lives and livelihoods. For some homeowners, just the prospect of returning to find their home damaged or destroyed adds to the trauma.

The psychological toll of climate events on homeowners should not be underestimated. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common, leading to feelings of helplessness and despair. Even after the immediate danger has passed, long-term displacement can strain relationships, disrupt routines, and impose additional financial burdens.

As the frequency and severity of extreme weather events continue to rise, homeowners must prioritize preparedness, investing in disaster-resistant infrastructure, securing adequate insurance coverage, and implementing emergency family plans.

Collective action at the community and regional levels to address climate change can mitigate impacts on homeowners and society. By working together to build resilient communities, we can weather the storm of climate change and create a safer, more sustainable future.