National property broker Redfin's latest research is showing America's disaster-prone areas are becoming more populous as residents move around the U.S.
The U.S. counties with the largest share of homes facing high heat, drought, fire, flood and storm risk saw their populations grow from 2016-2020 due to migration, while the counties with the smallest share of homes facing climate risk largely saw their populations decline.
This is according to a Redfin analysis of data from climate-data startup ClimateCheck, county property records and the U.S. Census Bureau. The 50 U.S. counties with the largest share of homes facing high heat risk saw their populations increase by an average of 4.7% from 2016 through 2020 due to positive net migration. Meanwhile, the 50 counties with the largest percentage of homes facing high drought, fire, flood and storm risk experienced average population growth of 3.5%, 3%, 1.9% and 0.4%, respectively, due to positive net migration.
"People have been gravitating to places with severe climate risk because many of these areas are relatively affordable, have lower property taxes, more housing options or access to nature," said Redfin Economist Sebastian Sandoval-Olascoaga. "For a lot of people, these benefits seem to outweigh the dangers of climate change. But as natural disasters become more frequent, homeowners in these areas may end up losing property value or face considerable difficulty getting their properties insured against environmental disasters."
Places with relatively low climate risk have experienced the opposite trend: population decline. The 50 counties with the lowest share of homes facing high heat risk saw their populations decrease by an average of 1.4% from 2016 through 2020 due to negative net migration. Meanwhile, the 50 counties with the smallest percentage of homes facing high drought, fire and flood risk experienced average migration-driven population declines of 1.1%, 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively. Bucking the trend were the 50 counties with the lowest share of homes facing high storm risk, which experienced 0.9% population growth.
Of the 50 counties with the largest share of properties facing high heat risk, 40 had median sale prices below the national level ($315,000) in 2020. Of the 50 counties with the largest share of properties facing high storm risk, 30 had median sale prices below the national level last year. Data on relative affordability in counties with high fire, drought and flood risk is unavailable due to insufficient sale-price data in many of the counties.