New homes in poorer areas of England and Wales face undue flood risk
A disproportionate number of homes built in disadvantaged neighbourhoods over the past decade will end up in high flood-risk areas as a result of climate breakdown, a study has revealed.
According to a report from the Grantham Research Institute, without further action the share of homes built between 2008 and 2018 that will be considered at high risk of flooding by the 2050s is expected to increase from 5% to 7% under a 2C warming scenario, or 14% under a “high-end warming scenario”.
The figures for disadvantaged neighbourhoods are 9% and 21% respectively.
The study, led by Viktor Rozer and Swenja Surminski, used data from Ordnance Survey to examine the flood exposure of new-build properties and the socioeconomic development of neighbourhoods.
Rozer said: “My motivation to do this work focuses on how climate change is not only about reducing carbon emissions but also about adapting to the impact of it.
“There’s a lot of missed opportunities with homes. Once they are built they will be there for decades or often hundreds of years. That’s something worth looking at. How do the neighbourhoods look when they are built and how will they be affected by climate change?”
Surminski said: “The biggest challenge that the UK is facing is flooding, so this research is trying to understand what are the social but also the economic implications of flooding. Where we build and how we build is a key issue.”
About 120,000 new homes have been built in flood-prone areas of England and Wales over the past decade.
The researchers say an increase in mortgage defaults and foreclosures in affected areas is also likely, which could have a negative effect on property prices and investment in already-disadvantaged areas.
Surminski said: “Flooding is actually the one sort of natural hazard where we actually have quite a few options in terms of managing it. The key thing is what can you do to protect your own home.
“There are more community-level things like urban drainage, or making sure flood protection is adequate. There are nature-based solutions too, like planting more trees.
“We know that climate change is already having an impact, but that this will also increase going forward. It really is important that people also understand what this means in terms of where they live.
“Some people might actually have financial means to protect their homes, but for others in poorer areas, they will have to rely on government support and their council. We just need to be careful that we’re not creating huge social inequalities of climate change.”