News & Media
An array of toy block homes and one has a red roof
Westend61, Getty Images

Once Redlined Homes Flood More – Though Not in Fla.

Study: Redlined neighborhoods – metro areas once relegated to Blacks or other minorities – are less appealing geographically than nearby white neighborhoods. But Fla. is the exception, where a home’s desirability is often based on proximity to the beach – an obviously high-risk flood area.

SEATTLE – Americans living in formerly redlined neighborhoods  – metro areas once legally relegated to Blacks or other minorities – are more likely today to see their homes jeopardized by water damage than people living in non-redlined (greenlined) neighborhoods, according to a report from Redfin.

But Florida bucks that trend, mainly because so many of its cities are located along the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. The trend can also be seen in other coastal cities, but the study makes it clear that Florida has a bigger impact.

“As soon as people see the sun, the beach and the palm trees, they forget about the flooding,” says Redfin Miami Beach real estate agent Cecilia Cordova. “If they find a house they like, they’re usually willing to live with the risk. Many buyers will also purchase a home and then renovate the property so it’s at a higher elevation, which minimizes much of the flood danger.”

In Tampa, for example, 47.5% of homes in greenlined neighborhoods have at high risk of flooding, compared with 25.9% of homes in redlined neighborhoods. There are similarly large gaps in Miami, Jacksonville and Virginia Beach, Va. – all southeastern metros with access to the beach.

In Miami, 34.2% of flood-risk properties are in former redlined neighborhoods, while 53.9% are in greenlined areas. In Jacksonville, 18% of flood-risk properties are in redlined areas; 36.4% are in greenlined ones.

Bokhari also thinks that Florida’s larger share of older residents may be important, suggesting they’re less likely to factor climate change into their homebuying decisions.

Nationwide, $107 billion worth of homes are at high risk of flooding in parts once designated undesirable for mortgage lending under the racist 1930s-era practice known as redlining. That compares with $85-billion-worth of homes at high risk of flooding in places that were deemed desirable for lending.

Today, 58.1% of households in neighborhoods once designated as undesirable are non-white, compared with 40.4% of households in neighborhoods labeled desirable for lending.

“Decades of segregation and economic inequality shoehorned many people of color – especially Black Americans – into living in neighborhoods that are more vulnerable to climate change,” says Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “Redlining kept home values in Black neighborhoods depressed, which in turn meant there was less money invested and reinvested in those neighborhoods for decades to come.”

Bokhari says that cycle continues today. “As climate change fuels rising sea levels and powerful storms, many of these neighborhoods lack the funding for the infrastructure upgrades necessary to combat flooding.”

Sacramento tops the list of metros where formerly redlined areas face more flood risk. In Sacramento, 21.6% of homes ($2.6 billion worth) in redlined areas face high risk of flooding today compared with 11.8% of homes ($717 million) in greenlined neighborhoods. New York had the second biggest gap, with 13.8% ($17.5 billion) of homes in redlined neighborhoods at high risk of flooding, compared with 7.1% ($4.9 billion) of homes in greenlined neighborhoods.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®