The First Street Foundation released the Cost of Climate report this week. The report found that New Jersey is number 4 for residential properties at risk within Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). There are 94,146 residential properties in New Jersey that have a substantial flood risk, with an expected collective loss of $415.4 million this year. According to the report, properties with federal food insurance within the SFHA are projected to see losses averaging $5,676 (almost 3 times the average premiums).
“This very disturbing report shows how New Jersey is not prepared for sea-level rise or climate impacts. It is downright scary that we’re number 4 in the nation for flood-prone properties. This new report raises another alarm bell when it comes to flooding in New Jersey. It shows that properties within the risk zone are going to see damage nearly 3 times the amount of their insurance premiums. This means that we’re basically subsidizing developing in the wrong places and putting properties at risk,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is one of a series of alarming reports showing that we’re putting more people in danger by building in flood-prone areas. As sea-level rise and storm surges get worse, more and more properties are going to be impacted. The state needs to take real climate action, or else we’ll all end up needing snorkels.”
Places in New Jersey with the greatest projected loss in 2021 include Toms River with $40.56 million, Beach Haven West with $23.12 million, Ocean City with $18.98 million, Point Pleasant with $15.26 million, and North Wildwood with $10.49 million. Areas with the greatest growing loss from 2021 to 2015 include Pennsville, Long Branch, Little Silver, Belmar, and Jersey City.
“Unfortunately, New Jersey is all wet when it comes to flooding and areas that are flood-prone. We are already seeing sunny day flooding in Atlantic City and roads going underwater every full moon. We haven’t updated our mapping or our programs, so some of the worst hit areas are places like Ocean City where they are still growing and building. Other areas like Belmar and Long Branch have the highest growing risk. Pennsville is projected to have 200.6% more loss in 2051 than today and Long Branch will have 189.5% more,” said Tittel. “The Governor’s PACT rules don’t go far enough. The land use rules are ‘build at your own risk’, so some of the worst-hit areas are places like Ocean City where they are still growing and building. This puts people in harm’s way while creating future houseboats.”
According to the report, the average annual loss per property in New Jersey is expected to increase by 53% between 2021 and 2051, from $4,412 today to $6,755 in 2051. According to the report, “this additional 53% increase over time is due to a continually changing climate and the resulting environmental conditions that are increasing flood likelihood and damage to these buildings.”
“This report shows that New Jersey needs to take immediate action to make our coasts and other flood-prone areas more resilient. This includes updating regulations, doing hazard planning, and buying out flood-prone properties. Under CAFRA we have areas underwater still listed as growth areas, such as Mystic Island and Gandy’s Beach. Those rules need to be changed. We also haven’t updated our maps to use the latest data from Rutgers and other studies, which is still putting people in harm’s way and properties at risk,” said Tittel. “Creating a Coastal Commission would allow better planning for regional development. New Jersey must also use up-to-date data for our maps and coastal development planning. Without the latest science, we can’t elevate to proper heights or predict sea-level rise correctly.”
The report found that the projected loss for the 94,146 at-risk properties in New Jersey could impact home values. This is most pronounced for 46,965 properties with extreme risk and structural damage. According to the report, these homes have a $6,139 gap between their calculated National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premium and expected annual loss per property.
“We are in a climate crisis. Climate change impacts are worse and happening faster. If the governor says he supports action on climate change, then he needs to put a moratorium on new fossil-fuel projects. The Murphy administration needs to change the rules put in place under Governor Christie that have rolled back coastal protections. We are still using weakened rules like the Flood Hazard Rules, Waiver Rules, Stormwater Rules, and CAFRA rules that encourage development and cause more flooding and pollution and put people more at risk,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Our cities are under siege from the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change. Without aggressive action to combat those impacts, people all over New Jersey are going to need snorkels.”