Catastrophic flooding in five Canadian cities has driven down the selling price of homes by 8.2%, reduced the number of houses listed for sale by nearly half, and increased the average time it takes to sell a house by nearly 20%, according to new research obtained by The Energy Mix.
The study by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, due to be released February 15, connects flood risk to more intense storms due to a combination of factors, including climate change, loss of natural infrastructure like forests, fields, and wetlands in southern Canada, poor land use planning, over-building of communities, and aging homes and municipal infrastructure.
“Canada has the tools necessary to mitigate flood risk, today,” states a draft media release from the Waterloo, Ontario-based Centre. But “if these tools are not mobilized with urgency, flood disasters worse than those seen in southern British Columbia in November 2021 will be commonplace across Canada.”
The research focused on five communities that went through a total of six catastrophic floods between 2009 and 2020: Grand Forks, British Columbia; Burlington, Ontario; Toronto; Ottawa; and Gatineau, Quebec. It found that the floods drove down final sale prices by 8.2%, and the number of houses listed for sale by 44.3%, while increasing the number of days required to sell a house by 19.8%.
The study was the first of its kind in Canada, Centre Director Blair Feltmate told The Mix.
Researchers looked at housing markets in the five communities for six months before and after each flood and compared them to “nearby non-flooded control communities over identical time frames,” the release states.
“The study also examined the impact of community level flooding on mortgage arrears and deferrals in two Canadian cities for six months pre- and post-flooding,” the Intact Centre adds. “Results showed no change in homeowners’ ability to pay their mortgage, but a reduction in the appraised value of a house due to flooding would influence limits on lending by mortgage providers.”
If a homeowner relies on a mortgage to cover 80% of the purchase price of a house, “and now you find out the house is worth less, now it’s a security issue for the bank or the mortgage provider,” Feltmate added.
With Canada beginning to speed up its efforts on home energy retrofits, he said the new study makes a strong case for combining flood risk assessments with home energy inspections.
“We’ve done very good work to evaluate the energy envelope of the house,” Feltmate said. “But simultaneously, we should be executing home flood evaluation, protection, and guidance to homeowners, hand in glove with the energy assessments. It’s just astronomically ill-advised not to combine the two, and it’s such an easy thing to solve.”
An Intact Centre infographic [pdf] lists more than a dozen steps homeowners can take to eliminate or reduce flood risk at little or no cost. The release calls on cities, banks, insurance companies, real estate associations, and electricity distribution companies to distribute that guidance to homeowners.
It also urges the federal government to connect a Climate Adaptation Home Rating Program to the EnerGuide home energy audit system, update its flood risk maps and make them available to the public, develop residential flood risk scores by postal code, identify and protect areas at high risk for flooding, and retain and restore natural infrastructure to reduce flood risk.