The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, with a rising frequency of extreme weather events. These events not only pose a threat to lives and economies but also have significant implications for the rental and housing markets. Let's explore the challenges renters face due to climate change, and provide tips to help renters protect themselves in an ever-evolving climate. From the impact on homeownership decisions to choosing the best place to live with climate change, let's dive in.
Climate Change's Increasing Impact on Renters
The Growing Significance of Climate Disasters
Since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has monitored "billion-dollar weather and climate disasters," which occur when damages and costs reach or exceed $1 billion. In 2021, there were twenty such events, including droughts, flooding, severe storms, tropical cyclones, wildfires, and winter storms, resulting in over 500 deaths and severe economic consequences. These alarming trends indicate that climate change is progressing faster than anticipated, affecting both renters and homeowners in the current rental and housing markets.
Rethinking Homeownership in the Face of Climate Change
Millennials, for instance, are reevaluating their plans to buy homes due to climate-related risks. In high-risk areas like Northern California's Bay Area, where wildfires and soaring housing prices prevail, millennials are increasingly opting to be lifetime renters. According to a 2021 study, the percentage of millennials intending to rent indefinitely rose from 12 percent in 2019 to 18 percent in 2020, highlighting the impact of climate change on waning homeownership.
Choosing the Best Place to Live with Climate Change
Climate change is reshaping the desirability of certain locations to live in. Coastal regions facing rising sea levels, such as California, are exploring solutions like revolving loan programs to "rent" homes in vulnerable coastal communities until they become uninhabitable. However, the impact of climate change on housing markets extends beyond coastal regions; in January 2022, over 40 percent of Americans lived in counties affected by climate disasters, emphasizing the widespread influence of climate change on rental and housing markets.
Fortifying Rental Housing for Climate Change
Protecting Rental Units against Climate Change
With the rental market experiencing increased demand due to a shortage of homes for sale, it is crucial to fortify existing rental housing against climate change. According to a 2022 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, nearly half of all existing rental housing units are threatened by climate change, disproportionately impacting low-income communities and people of color.
Mitigating Weather-Related Damage
As climate change intensifies, rental units will require more maintenance and repairs to offset the damage caused by weather events. Areas highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters will necessitate significant adaptations to safeguard rental units. Furthermore, weather-related damage can render some rental units uninhabitable, jeopardizing tenant safety and affecting the rental supply. Vulnerable rental units, such as basement apartments in coastal communities, face particular risks from rising sea levels. Even with property managers taking steps to protect against climate change effects, some weather events can have long-term health consequences.
Challenges Faced by Renters
Compared to homeowners, renters often receive less assistance in the aftermath of weather disasters. Recovery spending typically allocates fewer funds to renters, resulting in delayed support and exacerbating the loss of rental housing. Renters also encounter challenges regarding evacuation resources and insurance coverage during weather emergencies. Additionally, disclosure laws regarding climate-related risks differ between renters and homeowners, with Georgia being the only state that mandates landlords to disclose such information to renters.
Strategies for Renters to Address Climate Change
Equipping Renters with Information
Renters should gather as much information as possible about potential apartments, surrounding neighborhoods, and local laws and regulations. Conducting thorough online research using keyphrases like "climate change" plus the desired location can provide valuable insights. Additionally, reaching out to landlords or property managers via phone or email to inquire about fortification measures against adverse weather events can help renters make informed decisions.
Considering Climate when Choosing an Apartment
When selecting an apartment, it is essential to consider the climate and potential risks in the area. For example, if there is a risk of flooding, it may be advisable to avoid basement apartments or lower-level units. Renters prioritizing swift access to safety for themselves and their families, including pets, should assess the parking situation and the level of protection provided against weather elements.
Choosing Apartments with Emergency Preparedness
Renters can inquire about emergency evaluation plans and the presence of shelters, resources, or other infrastructure in their chosen complexes to address extreme weather events. Engaging in polite and direct communication with landlords or property managers can shed light on the steps being taken to address climate change concerns and any evacuation plans in place.
Climate change poses challenges for both renters and homeowners, necessitating collective efforts to mitigate its impact on homes and communities. By equipping themselves with information, considering climate risks in apartment selection, and engaging with property managers regarding emergency preparedness, renters can proactively protect themselves. While the future remains uncertain, these strategies can help renters find a safe haven amidst the storms brought on by climate change.