Climate Change & The Cost Of Coastal Real Estate


Speed Internet most for the first time more at comcast corporation dot com slash Internet essentials from whyy in Philadelphia I'm Terry support for NPR and the following message come from comcast through Internet essentials comcast has connected more than eight million people from low income households too high he makes a fair amount of money he realizes one day that real estate is a game to be in one day in August of nineteen fresh air support for this podcast comes from the Neubauer family foundation supporting whyy's fresh air and its commitment to sharing ideas and encouraging meaningful conversation this is fresh air I'm terry gross our guest journalist Gilbert Gaul says Americans have chosen about regulatory problems with the nation's blood supply he spoke to fresh air's Dave Davies about his new book the geography of Risk Epoch storms much more vulnerable than ever to the tidal surges and heavy rains that come with modern storms Gilbert goal has reported for the New York Times and the Washington Post where we have all of this property at risk in an age where those risks are accelerating increasing that's not good that's coming up on Ak Shin homes by the thousands on these barrier islands is a relatively recent thing in American history you tell us about a guy in the early twentieth century In surprised winning journalist Gilbert gaul seventeen of the twenty most costly hurricanes have been since two thousand and it's likely that those later he starts the largest shoe store in Elizabeth New Jersey Selling Galoshes or boots to the port workers and Elizabeth for ninety nine cents to build three trillion dollars with property and some of the riskiest places on earth the barrier islands and Coastal Flood Plains of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts developers to keep rebuilding on the coast transferring much of the financial risk from private investors and homeowners tax payers. We've created this dynamic twenty-six he had purchased a new car a Willy's nights sedan he decides to take it out on Sunday morning and take for Dr he sees a sign for rising seas and the cost of America's coasts we'll Gobert goal welcome to fresh air you know I learned from your book that this practice of Building Jersey named Morris Schapiro would he do so Marsh Shapiro was one of the seminal builders of vacation homes beachhead and he's the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes one of the Pottsville Pennsylvania Republican for a series about the decline of a coal company and another at the Philadelphia Inquirer houses along the New Jersey coast and really along the national he arrives in the United States in eighteen ninety nine through in an era of rising seas increasingly destructive hurricanes go says an array of government subsidies encourage homeowners and developers to keep ending on vulnerable shorelines and when disaster strikes tax payers end up picking up much of the cost of rebuilding leaving over develop coastlines and wetlands Cold Long Beach Island drives over a rickety wooden bridge which is only about a foot or two above Barney get bay at that time Long Beach Island had maybe seven coarser galls new book the geography of risk is about who pays after storms come ashore and how federal subsidies encouraged talking Morris asks him if by any chance he knows of any property for sale just so happens the man says I have fifty nine hundred people he sees someone standing outside a clapboard shack and he gets out and meets the Sky Silence and then the family moves to Elizabeth in North Jersey along the port city there Morris's eighteen or nineteen years old at the time a few years later three acres from ocean today I'll sell them to you for a thousand dollars an acre he buys fifty three acres for fifty three thousand dollars I was curious in two thousand fifteen what that would cost today so I went into the property records in tax assessors office and began calling the information turns out it would cost him about four hundred million dollars to buy the property which is I think of five hundred thirty fold increase after you just for inflation so it's a signal for what what was the come at the coast and Morris really becomes one of the seminal builders river time right so he subdivided he comes to the idea you know there's a market for smaller cottages and he eventually develops this market I call them blue collar it takes some years does this and he subdivided the properties and I guess what's distinctive about this is that there were oceanside resorts for the wealthy right this was for working right the genius of more Shapiro was that instead of building large Victorian hotels are large Victorian houses he begins developing these cottages in the late nineteen thirties in nineteen forties the market for second homes adjust to them and that's exactly what he did so the initial cottages he built were you know maybe six hundred square feet at most versus today were at the coast really begins to develop after the war after World War Two when the economy's booming Americans have money they're looking for ways to indulge themselves you know the average size of a of a so-called cottage at the beach is more like three thousand square feet so it takes off Yes oh yes It it he really after years of sacrifice and the market does take off in Morris Schapiro ends up developing roughly two are cottages because he was focusing on people like teachers like Tristesse plumbers ordinary Americans and he wanted to develop a market and sell sp sell the smoke that define the mid Atlantic coast the other one being hurricane sandy or superstorm sandy as other people call it in two thousand twelve have three trillion dollars worth of property I estimate along what I call the near coast from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf coast other developers see this opportunity follow suit there is commercial development that comes with it as well as government investments in highways and other infrastructure and we got really and the sixty two storm was not only unusual in terms of the meteorology of the storm there were five high tides water just for cell and other cottage the damage was was so destructive in fact within two months there were back in business the business thousand cottages on the barrier island that I focus on in New Jersey Cold Long Beach Island which today is the largest richest barrier island in in the State Morissette died in its jury in her running the business the sons and they thought in fact her told me this several times they thought they would never you're towns now that are real kind of destinations that are people are really this thing this really booming now it it is today so we uh-huh what happens the Ash Wednesday storm of March one thousand nine hundred sixty two is one of two seminal events so this thing really gets moving there are a lot of a lot of people living at the shore and these houses were built and then in nineteen sixty two a nasty storm a nor'easter think about the coast and think about what we want the coast to look like given what we've just gone through and then he said that the kind of clearing mechanism at the coast a form of urban renewal at the beaches is the way I describe it in the book because they clear out older homes were began to boom afterward they had to record years in a row selling houses in and what that tells you is that storms are he proposed a hundred foot buffer from the sand dunes backward where there would be no building even the corps of Engineers thought that was a good idea at the time honorable homes and people come in with money speculators realtors and other folks and they buy up the property sometimes for cheap and then begin to build did so this sets up a phenomenon that we see in ensuing decades you now have mayors of coastal towns whose economies are built on the seaside fine and what happened was he sent out his Labor and Commerce Secretary Raymond Mail to give the message to the to the the development and again and again governors and environmental officials come down and say wait wait we need to be smarter we need to plan we need to restrict and the mayor say no way destroy anything that was there you might think if I build here that's quite a risk so what is in that deter people yeah yeah no I mean piled up and piled up over three days it wrecked the mid Atlantic coast just just blew it away this Shapiro's thought and by that time to slow development at the coast because it was basically unchecked and the other important factor is that the mayor newer and larger homes and that's how the coast developed right and I guess what's interesting about that is that one might think if you see a storm come and literally damage was so extraordinary that we need we need it to be a lot more cautious about we about the way we developed at the at the coast what are you want to be larger and so even though at the coast it's a lot riskier there are far more risks they want to build right organization to beat back attempts to limit development there was a meeting at Saint Francis Center on Long Beach Island where they packed fifteen other element is who pays rang there is a disaster and going back to the nineteen sixty two storm Yeah John F. Kennedy was in the West Alana it's occurred in South Carolina it's incurred in Florida it's incurred in Texas I focused on New Jersey because I knew this barrel and really well in the and had been going to it for fifty seven years and after after sixty two storm there were several other attempts at the state level nine hundred people into this place on a day when the temperature was over one hundred degrees no less and as you would expect they just attacked the ars e Richard J Hughes who was the governor at that time did something that was really interesting he said you know let's pause for six months and Gosh we need to control this but there are powerful economic interest you know represented by politicians who say nope nope there's money here there's property we have to build then hired burston-marsteller which at the time I think was the world's largest PR firm out there to help them organize what we would call today a grassroots somewhat not entirely by any stretch but somewhat and each time the mayor's for back at one point in nineteen eighty on Long Beach Island even on the state said well let's slow down a little bit they propose several different pieces of legislation that would have limited development everything so if you had a wildfire back then or you had an earthquake or whatever tornado but it evolves as the modern coast develops as down mayors and and the coastal legislators and they of course hated the idea because all their economic incentives are to build I mean if you if you're the mayor of a town you don't WanNa be small begins to happen afterward we continue to see more and more federal programs to come in after storms and we begin if you will and it really begins in nineteen fifty when legislators passed the first state officials over and over in a beat back the attempts to to limit development so we have this dynamic where there are you know regulators who think early modest disaster relief appropriation of about twenty five million dollars but it's just a signal to what another thing because there were really all the incentives were to in place where to build not to step back and pause after the sixty two storm in you've to rebuild it ends up lowering the risk of those of those property owners and that's that's what we see Kennedy was was under pressure after risk how do you how do you portion risk how much of it is going to be private how much is it going to be public so I went back and traced the history of risk at the coast. Yeah they they they fight it off and there's a long history in New Jersey in particular of this occurring but it's also incurred in and to see more and more federal programs before storms to build bridges to build utility systems grants for water systems grants build basically in harm's way so you have a circumstance where there's development on the shore there are politicians who represent astor relief act legislation and that creates a disaster relief fund and that covered not just coast federal funds that's Congress in that covered his and the council's of these towns control land-use they control what goes where not the state one hundred percent so for example after Hurricane Sandy any beach town in New Jersey that was already in the process hey it covers seventy percent on average of of the cost of recovery and in some cases it covers one people to build in these places they shouldn't be building coastal flood plains and then after the storms we then pay these towns to read in house people said we need help what happened they got help again another thing that I was interested in was this question a lot of it goes to taxpayers and now we have a changing climate how does that affect things right I should add that millions and millions at houses get built along the coast surprise what happens the expectations of the property owners change and they back after storms that the government will be there to help them that ends up doing a couple of things I it it ends up giving people incentives us of widening it speeches and that would be by the corps of Engineers and in largely federal government legislation those communities and want help the federal government has established that they will come in and rebuild which means that the risk of homing these of owning these beautiful places this puts us in perspective I think in in the nineteen fifties when the monarchos was was just being built the federal government it covered five percent of the cost of recovery after hurricanes and storms nor'easters and things like that today is for public buildings grand for fire engines everything you could possibly think of so it's it's happening both at the front end to incentivize one hundred percent of the cost of putting sand in front of multi-million dollar oceanfront mansions limitless the usual thing at least in my opinion that they do that they have gotten into business of widening widening beaches and what I mean by that is literally agnostic in any of this or an active player all this they spend a lot of time holding the hands of the beach town mayors where they work I've seen it in person sixty to to do something to help the the beach towns in in the property owners and in the past what was then a fair millions and millions or hundreds of millions of dollars to widen beaches and the largest benefit by far is goes to of engineers saying kind of you know rhetorically to coastal towns if you don't have a federal project we wanNA talk to you we are pulling out all the stuff the approved list for for each products the core comes in and with its contractors and it begins pumping sand onto those beaches beaches eroding and that's what barrier islands do they naturally road if it gets bad enough and if they can get a legislator to get them on the list rows of houses right behind it does almost nothing to the backsides a barrier islands in terms of benefit this was amazing to me when I read in your book APPs to get funding for you yeah they're developing work for their selves and that means getting federal money to move sand beaches yeah yeah the core is is by no means nationally somewhere in the magnitude of five billion dollars widening winding beaches up and down the coast in New Jersey really it's it's interesting we've started so many of these things at the core of engineers have at least with these kinds of projects become entrepreneurs of a short I mean you you quote one One of the guys the millions and millions of cubic yards of sand up and down the coast in New Jersey alone. I WANNA say it's it's one hundred million cubic yards of on and they spend a fair amount of time going down and trains to Washington to meet with coastal legislators who either WanNA project or have a project or more The people who are lucky enough to own these million dollar multimillion dollar houses parked right behind the dunes and then the next to Rome Kevin and barging it in and building beaches yes we the the core I mean this is not all that core does by any stretch but is that the sand remained in place that it essentially implying that it was affects but the reality is that it doesn't and you have winds in New Jersey out of the northeast the prevailing winds and big waves that they do exactly what you would think they would do they wash away the sand we're listening to the interview fresh air's Dave Davies recorded with Gilbert gaul author of the geography of risk after a break go will explain the origin the coast New Jersey is famous for really being the place that invented this this piece of business and in helping to get the core into the business of of of beach building for millionaires so so the core works with the local politicians they talk to their representatives in Congress they find the money and then private contractors who worked for the core all this work in the projects are in the tens of or hundreds of million dollars does it help does it does it does is it elastic magnet for violent storms also John Powers will review the new HBO series watchmen which is adapted from a Comic Book Series and Stars Regina King mant I mean that's that's enough to fill up football stadiums dozen times to put it in some sort of perspective it's Jarvis amount of sand we've spent in our align was was put into the legislation that is disaster recovery legislation calling for the for the corps of Engineers to pay for the time the engineers and I like these guys by the way I think they're great guys are just doing what they're doing but once upon a time they used to argue that rocket mortgage by quicken loans push-button get mortgage let's go back to the interview fresh air's Davies recorded with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist awesome this for a second we're talking about the Army Corps of Engineers into these symbols of your fish and infrastructure and they're dredging sand from from the the game visit rocket mortgage dot com slash fresh air equal housing lender licensed in all fifty states mls consumeraccess dot org number thirty thirty very gross with fresh air today epic storms rising seas and the cost of uncontrolled development on America's vulnerable coasts we hear from and I'm Terry Gross and this is fresh air support for fresh air and the following message come from rocket mortgage by quicken loans imagine how it feels to have an award winning team of mortgage experts make the home buying process smoother for you with a history of industry leading online lending technology rocket mortgage is changing enroll kinds of reasons to explain why why that but the reality is that they pump sand and then if you have a nor'easter thousand seventeen Florence in two thousand eighteen Imelda just this summer where they Roy Moore up to the code more money that's simply the works back in out Gosh on a no twenty years ago or so the core had this a light go on in the office one day where they decide with climate change with warmer oceans hurricanes are getting seemed to be getting bigger and more powerful and they're not just wind events there you call them rain bombs the federal flood insurance that has subsidized risky development and coastal areas and we'll talk about a resort island in the Gulf of Mexico that he says has been early just stalls out it's spinning around three miles an hour slowly migrating towards Houston the all to increasingly destructive hurricanes in an age of climate change gall says an array of federal subsidies have encouraged this development Tran that that alone is going to cause monumental damage but hurricanes Russell flood events and what we've seen in recent years bird gall his new book the geography of risk is about the sprawling development of education homes and rental properties in coastal areas that are vulnerable wind right because they can generate in the case of a hurricane like Michael and Florida and and last year hundred and fifty five mile per hour winds so improvement now to these communities no it's a band aid so so pumping sand on on the beach helps you in short term but the sand doesn't stay what's the science isn't fixed on this why it occurs but we've seen a number of very large hurricanes like Harvey in two thousand right at that it was the business in needed to act in a more businesslike fashion and that's learning the way this all works they have pumped during much of the financial risk of seaside living from private investors and homeowners to tax payers what are the things you know what in the book is that doc in in in some respects flooding is is a is a huge part of this it is it is we think of the word hurricane and we think of I install out harvey's a great example because Harvey was you know this big Blob of a storm it reaches the Gulf coast in it warmer ocean creates more fuel for that Hurricane Water Vapor that you know in simplest terms just get sucked up into the that fortex and then it ends up getting dumped on to Houston and it was biblical forty to sixty inches reflected the actual risk the government shouldn't offer subsidize flood insurance and it should be phased in twenty five thousand houses flooded in Harvey it's estimated that seventy five thousand of those houses were seriously down there was this tortured struggle for decades over should the federal government get involved in cell flood insurance Lyndon Johnson comes in and after wight who is one of the nation's most eminent jog refers geographers at the time is the head of the panel the emerged There were at ground level they needed to be elevated but the cost of elevating those houses would be my mass suggests at least fifteen this goes back I guess to the sixties really and when Lyndon Johnson was going to do this there was a commission that said we can do this you can provide federal became betsy in sixty five in calls for another study of can the government do this they come a guy named Gilbert Fowler it's a climate change another one of the ways that the federal government supports development at the shore is through flood insurance which is available to homeowners this and billion dollars and that's just one town this is happening everywhere these rain bombs are happening on the east coast they're happening all across the Gulf coast and this is one of the flood insurance but he oughta imposed some conditions right so The shirt history of flood insurance is that private church used to sell flood insurance backing the twenties and thirties but then after a series of rain events and flood events especially the nineteen twenty seven Mississippi flood they got out of the business yeah well what what happens is we of course include subsidies rather dramatic subsidies where people are paying you know as little the Texas having no real zoning laws developers built wherever they they want it and he was a growing place I mean it was big place you had big one does you know twenty thirty forty percent of the actual risk in their premiums the really was very little land use and that goes back to the fact that you've under a number of conditions that had to include limitations on a new building and flood plains the premiums had to be high enough again it's the beach towns that control a little restrictions on Land Yeah Yeah and in Development Jessica celebrates even with as a result of flood insurance actually in this study they produce a report and he concluded that yes the government could offer a foot insurance program but it would only work oil you you had lots of healthcare and it just sprawled all over the place but these places where they shouldn't have built flooded ethically over a hundred premiums are really low in then we rushed in instead of phasing in by doing maybe test case or to an estate it's without building in money for reserves and that's important because when you have a giant storm like Katrina be allowed to operate this way but the government does because it uses the US Treasury federal tax payers if you will thinks that ordinarily they wouldn't do they had to pay for it no fun rational ideas and wise warnings what happens when the congressman which is what Fowler suggested we introduced it nationally right away and the other critical point was we we brought in flood insurance and over time and you don't want to subsidize it because you don't WanNa distort the market you distort the market when you have a subsidy in it yeah it it it leads people to do that money to pay the claims with little or no expectation that will ever be paid back so you end up with forty billion dollars in debt in were you have billions and billions of a flood claims there's no money there to cover it because you have no reserves no private Scher would still properties that flood over and over and over again and are still paying fairly low premiums Azziz financial backstop so in a case like Katrina they congress just says okay we'll raise the bar and allow the Flood Insurance Program to borrow didn't Flood Insurance Program it's a program that was broken from day one in a still broken right and there have been efforts to reform it two thousand twelve there was a serious attempt to to reform the program that would have introduced higher premiums and shifted the risk wins the mayor's all began to object that these rates were going to drive people away from the coast so then the Komo has anything chain not not really not in a major sense they're they're still subsidies there's the politicians in Washington including the backers of the original legislation withdraw and and we end up coastline has this leftist well as I said earlier we have three trillion dollars worth of property built on assing new legislation that slowdown rate increases and even reverse some of the rate increases and that's where we stand today so what kind of Atlantic and Gulf coast much of it is located on barrier islands which by definition or eroding and have little or any elevation onto property owners in a more rational way and it it would the legislation passed by large large numbers in both the House and Senate them with housing as well so we've created this dynamic where we have all this property at risk in it was adopted in as soon as it came into play people began to see what it would do and all of a sudden all hell broke loose the property owners the politician ways to upcycle orchard co-products halls and shells may create stronger recycled plastics fuel and more more at almondsustainability dot org station in just a moment this is fresh air support for NPR and the following message come from Almond Board of California did you know the almond community is working on he's many of which are prone to flooding increasingly would sea level rise and we saw that in Hurricane Sandy Two thousand twelve in New Jersey we have filled age where those risks are accelerating increasing that's not good Gilbert goals book is the geography of risk will continue our and are the most vulnerable to hurricanes into sea level rise we have built in addition along back bays or sounds and our estuary NPR this is fresh air and we're speaking with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gilbert Gaul his new book is about government policies that promote sprawling development on our coasts. Let's it'll be fun you'll learn some stuff in yeah it's GonNa get a little weird science listening subscribe now to short wave and the cost of America's coasts millions of people today live on our barrier islands and coastal waterways in Bays but one of the things that I found and write about is this phenomenon where much of the coast is becoming an investment property Well I tried to I tried to figure that out in the context of the Flood Insurance Program and I did the math and I came up Madison fire here host of shortwave a new daily science podcast from NPR listen for new discoveries everyday mysteries in science behind the headlines All in about ten and waterways and how taxpayers assumed much of the cost of rebuilding when disasters occur her his new book is the geography of risk epic storms rising seas hey as one of every three properties that are insured by the Federal Government there are certainly millions of people living along the coast but with a figure just for flood insurance the federal government is is ensuring one point three million beach houses second homes it could be higher could be as high storms you've there's the prospect of these big expensive places being ripped apart and rebuilt is there a place that you studied that's an example of this Nyland which is off the coast of Alabama in mobile it's a fourteen point five mile long barrier islands shaped like drums end of Dauphin Island nineteen feet swept away those houses off the stilts I think four hundred of the four rolls along we all know it's a big massive violent storm it pushed nineteen feet of storm surge over the Western up on these stilts and were safe they were safe until they weren't so what happened was in two thousand and five Hurricane Katrina Properties are having on the culture and economics at the coast you know as as develops coastal communities face rising seas and bigger it's beach houses and second homes but unlike in the past were people would go and actually live there during the summer months stalker a bond in that in my mind certa changes the way I think about those houses but the impacts that that those investment shows you that allegation only gets you so far and they rebuilt again of course yes I spoke for this book I spoke with the Raiders or small category two hurricane that wiped out thirty or so of the older houses literally pitched them across the narrow a lot of the property that that that taxpayers assume the risk for our second homes and vacation we have any idea how much a dozen hurricanes in the last few decades including several major hurricanes after I went there initially in one thousand nine hundred eighty Gulf of Mexico has no elevation and yet that's where all the big houses are on their oil second homes they're all beachhead Sorry we don't have enough money you guys don't qualify well if these homes don't qualify in a place like Dolphin island which has been smashed over and over and over off they raise the white flag and they asked to be bought out Dauphin island the town filed an application and the barrier island like bowling balls into the houses along the Mississippi sound the owners then elevated their houses fifteen feet in the air they built new houses asking to be bored out to pay for these fifteen fifteen houses two years went by they finally got a letter back from Fema and the letter said again. You know what's going to happen right we don't have we don't we simply don't have enough money to buy out all these mistakes we've made at the coast stick the eastern end of it is a fairly lush maritime forest and reasonably wide and then the western end of it facing the Mississippi sound the owners may be there for two weeks and then the rest of the time the place is empty they don't even rent it out they're not even trying to run it as a business it's just an investment property just like us and when visited it again and spoke with the mayor again and yes it's all rebuilt and now the construction line for the original coastline look like what can we do so there's two questions there are more rational coastline wouldn't look -struction line for the houses is one hundred yards offshore underwater in Mexico the houses are just sitting there at the edge there's no elevation no sand dunes tax revenues for the for the local government I will tell you though that after Katrina fifteen of the homeowners there had the good sense to say we've had aren't fifty homes there were wrecked I managed to get on the island a few days after the hurricane I was staggered by what I saw all and nothing they're just sitting there at the edge of the water and in some cases in war so up on stilts up on stilts but again twenty you see or these empty stilts bent in the sand were the houses used to be sitting up in up in the air like bird houses just industry you know you can keep widening beaches you can elevate houses you can elevate roads Assist I asked the mayor will why did they built their you know that's the riskiest possible place and he said well they like the view the place has been hit by over I'd say you can't rebuild right it absolutely would be but the Dauphin island depends on those houses for its open space whether that would be state or federal parks something like that because when you have storms those are places tting nature until the next big hurricane roars up the Gulf and there will be one so this might be the kind of place where irrational government policies things like that but you're only buying yourself time in some cases you might be buying a few decades in some cases you may only be buying yourself a few years get all alike it looks today it would have far fewer houses it would have much more this message comes from NPR sponsor eleanor amplified created by former fresh air producer the podcast eleanor amplified is an adventure series kids love order can

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