The impacts of climate change on housing and holders of mortgage risk are very real and growing. As the frequency and severity of perils increases, so does the associated cost – estimated to have grown from $100B in 2000 to $450B 2020 (see chart below). Many of these costs are not covered by property insurance, leaving homeowners and potential mortgage investors holding the bag. Even after adjusting for inflation and appreciation, the loss to both investors and consumers is staggering. Properly understanding this data might require adding some new terms to your personal lexicon. As the housing market begins to get its arms around the impact of climate change to housing, here are a few terms you will want to incorporate into your vocabulary. Natural Hazard In partnership with climate modeling experts, RiskSpan has identified 21 different natural hazards that impact housing in the U.S. These include familiar hazards such as floods and earthquakes, along with lesser-known perils, such as drought, extreme temperatures, and other hydrological perils including mudslides and coastal erosion. The housing industry is beginning to work through how best to identify and quantify exposure and incorporate the impact of perils into risk management practices more broadly. Legacy thinking and risk management would classify these risks as covered by property insurance with little to no downstream risk to investors. However, as the frequency and severity increase, it is becoming more evident that risks are not completely covered by property & casualty insurance. We will address some of these “hidden risks” of climate to housing in a forthcoming post. Wildland Urban Interface The U.S. Fire Administration defines Wildland Urban Interface as “the zone of transition between unoccupied land and human development. It is the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.” An estimated 46 million residences in 70,000 communities in the United States are at risk for WUI fires. Wildfires in California garner most of the press attention. But fire risk to WUIs is not just a west coast problem — Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are among the top five states at risk. Communities adjacent to and surrounded by wildland are at varying degrees of risk from wildfires and it is important to assess these risks properly. Many of these exposed homes do not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover for losses due to wildfire. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) The National Flood Insurance Program provides flood insurance to property owners and is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Anyone living in a participating NFIP community may purchase flood insurance. But those in specifically designated high-risk SFPAs must obtain flood insurance to obtain a government-backed mortgage. SFHAs as currently defined, however, are widely believed to be outdated and not fully inclusive of areas that face significant flood risk. Changes are coming to the NFIP (see our recent blog post on the topic) but these may not be sufficient to cover future flood losses. Transition Risk Transition risk refers to risks resulting from changing policies, practices or technologies that arise from a societal move to reduce its carbon footprint. While the physical risks from climate change have been discussed for many years, transition risks are a relatively new category. In the housing space, policy changes could increase the direct cost of homeownership (e.g., taxes, insurance, code compliance, etc.), increase energy and other utility costs, or cause localized employment shocks (i.e., the energy industry in Houston). Policy changes by the GSEs related to property insurance requirements could have big impacts on affected neighborhoods. Physical Risk In housing, physical risks include the risk of loss to physical property or loss of land or land use. The risk of property loss can be the result of a discrete catastrophic event (hurricane) or of sustained negative climate trends in a given area, such as rising temperatures that could make certain areas uninhabitable or undesirable for human housing. Both pose risks to investors and homeowners with the latter posing systemic risk to home values across entire communities. Livability Risk We define livability risk as the risk of declining home prices due to the desirability of a neighborhood. Although no standard definition of “livability” exists, it is generally understood to be the extent to which a community provides safe and affordable access to quality education, healthcare, and transportation options. In addition to these measures, homeowners also take temperature and weather into account when choosing where to live. Finding a direct correlation between livability and home prices is challenging; however, an increased frequency of extreme weather events clearly poses a risk to long-term livability and home prices. Data and toolsets designed explicitly to measure and monitor climate related risk and its impact on the housing market are developing rapidly. RiskSpan is at the forefront of developing these tools and is working to help mortgage credit investors better understand their exposure and assess the value at risk within their businesses. Contact us to learn more.