Flood risk and policy effects on Massachusetts's coasts

Authors: Mary Hartford*, University of Connecticut
Topics: Global Change, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: NFIP, environmental discourse, hazards and disaster research, coastal and marine
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


After the 2012 Biggert-Waters NFIP amendment (BWA) to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), many properties that were eligible for subsidized or grandfathered rates saw this relief rolled back, with premium increases bringing financial hardship. Recent research in the southern US demonstrates home value suppression in flood zones, caused by these NFIP changes and recent flooding. Yet, real estate markets along northeastern coasts climb. Indeed, further study shows the NFIP encourages coastal development and that the sale value amenity of water proximity can outweigh the disamenity of flood risk, with disamenity from actual flood events diminishing quickly. I propose that coastal home sales have been coerced by premium increases, and that the valuation effects of then-necessarily-wealthier owners may be obscured by using those coerced sale prices as proxy for property value, ignoring post-sale improvements that would increase market value. However, there has been limited study using actual flood zones to compare changing dynamics in this context, instead using data aggregated by postal or census geography. To explore whether NFIP policies are displacing residents and advancing coastal gentrification, I analyze ten years of geolocated residential sales data from Massachusetts coastal communities by flood zone situation to compare pre- and post-BWA property sales dynamics in the appropriate spatial context. The results of this study, along with a forthcoming examination of post-sale improvements, will be the basis for a critical evaluation of the disjuncture between the NFIP’s stated intentions and its true effects on coastal communities.

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