Harvard Analysts Coin New Term: Climate Gentrification

Putting forth the concept that properties at higher elevations will be inherently worth more as sea levels rise, a team of Harvard researchers has coined a new phrase: climate gentrification. Jesse Keenan, co-author on the first peer-reviewed study to associate real estate trends and climate change, said, “What we see here is a theory of climate gentrification that suggests that in Miami, [Florida], higher elevation land will be worth more.”

Keenan and her colleagues provided as examples two Miami homes: one sitting on the edge of the water in Miami Beach and currently valued at $25 million and one sitting on a “garbage-strewn street in Little Haiti, about five miles inland and valued at $559,000.” The home in little Haiti has doubled in value in the past two years, the team noted, while the mansion “may already be lowering its value [due to] rising tides and increasingly extreme storms.”

Miami may be a unique market to study simply because of the many water-related issues in the city, including “nuisance flooding” during high tides and general sea-level rise in many areas due, in part, to overdevelopment in coastal areas, the researchers say that the rise in real estate values inland is indicative of a trend of climate change and, to take things one step further, a pattern of (per Keenan) “wealthier investors now displacing low-income residents in high-elevation neighborhoods like Little Haiti.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), global sea levels have been rising over the past century and have risen more than 2.6 inches since 1993. NOAA’s official website does not specifically cite any particular culprit for rising sea levels, but simply notes that flooding is more frequent in coastal communities now than it was 50 years ago.

Do you think it is reasonable to use real estate trends to “verify” climate change?

  • Barb says:

    Years ago there were not so many homes to be affected by flooding? Get a grip people!!

  • William Reynolds says:

    The problem is the National Flood Insurance Program, originally created by Congress in 1968, encouraging people to build in flood-prone areas, like low-lying coastal areas. From a January 2014 report at Grist.org: “If you’re an 18-year-old and you buy a Ferrari, you’re probably not going to be able to get insurance,” says Stephen Ellis with the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Even if you’re a 30-year-old driving a Chevy Cavalier, if you get in an accident, your premiums are going to go up. That doesn’t happen with flood insurance. We had properties that flooded 17 or 18 times that were still covered under the federal insurance program.” Guess who picks up the losses on that program?

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