The First Street Foundation study points out that insurers could offer discounts to homeowners who take steps to fortify their homes, which would help make disasters less damaging. Moore said Florida once was a leader when it came to measures like building codes, although that has changed in recent years. The state also had lacked a disclosure policy requiring property owners to share a property’s flood history with buyers and renters.

Another bill would compel landlords to inform tenants that they live in a flood zone, and yet another would force home sellers to disclose past flooding and insurance claims to potential buyers. The first measure has not advanced. The second was approved on March 4 by the Florida State House and Senate and heads next to DeSantis for his signature.

“We’ve got to stop putting more and more people in harm’s way, especially in Florida where we could see a foot or two and a half feet of sea level rise in the next 30 years, over the term of a 30-year mortgage. Maybe we should tell people that before they buy a house. Maybe we don’t issue that permit to build the house there in the first place. There’s a revolutionary idea for the state to consider,” Moore said.

“As long as the state of Florida is determined to keep people in the dark about the risks, they are reaping the seeds they have sown,” he said. “All you have to do is look at the development boom in some of the riskiest areas of the state.”

Escalating risk may lead some homeowners to abandon certain areas. A separate study from the First Street Foundation combines Census Bureau and flood risk data to identify what the study describes as “climate abandonment areas,” where population declines between 2000 and 2020 can be linked with vulnerability.

The areas are scattered nationwide but concentrated along most of coastal Florida, the Mid-Atlantic region between New Jersey and Washington, DC, and the Gulf Coast of Texas, especially in Houston. The areas can be found even in some of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas, like Miami. In Miami-Dade County, properties lost as much as $3.99 per square foot in home value due to flood risk between 2005 and 2017, according to the study.

Such migrations likely would not be consistent and would be tied with socioeconomic means. Buyout programs are small compared with the widespread risk, Porter said.

Moore said providing relocation assistance has proven challenging in various places across the country. It can take time for the assistance to reach the person, and it can be difficult to help the person get to where he or she wants to go, he said.

“Most of our energies are about buying them out so they can go somewhere else. But where else they go, it also presents some challenges as well, especially in fast-growing areas where property values are growing,” he said. “That may not be enough to help them relocate to a safer place.”

“There’s just no easy solutions to this, and solutions are exponentially harder in a state that’s determined to continue development in high-risk areas,” Moore said. “There are no solutions that are going to work long-term when that’s the dynamic at play.”

Added Friedlander: “We don’t see the [insurance] market getting worse. But unfortunately what does that mean for the average consumer? It does not mean the bill is going down today or tomorrow. We’re talking about a stabilizing market. We’re hoping in 2024 we will see more moderate rate increases than we’ve seen before, but we can’t predict.”

A Rare Spot of Nature

For Infinger, his family’s property along the Little Wekiva represents a rare spot of nature tucked away within the urban web of highways and subdivisions outside of Orlando.

He speaks with wonder rather than worry as he recalled a time when he and his wife watched a bear through a window of the family home, as the animal made a snack of acorns. Of observing coyotes come and go through the yard. He grew up with some of his neighbors. This feels like home.

That may change, though. The family has the money to pay the escalating insurance rates, said Infinger, 41, who works in construction. But as their kids get older, he and his wife are making plans to move farther outside of Orlando, closer to his parents. He fears his beloved Little Wekiva will flood the low-lying family home again in the future.

“We already know it’s going to flood,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”


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