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California Has A New Idea For Homes At Risk From Rising Seas: Buy, Rent, Retreat



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Within the span of a 30-year mortgage, more than $100 billion worth of American homes is expected to be at risk of chronic flooding. As the climate warms and oceans rise, numerous oceanfront properties will be submerged, leaving coastal communities — affluent and not — with the torturous question of how to adjust. Build sea walls? Dump sand? For how long and at what cost?

“It’s becoming a really serious resource question for a lot of local governments,” says California state Sen. Ben Allen, who represents coastal communities in the greater Los Angeles area that are spending millions to keep their beaches intact.

It’s expensive to fight the sea. It’s expensive not to do so. When property values plummet, so do property taxes. But right now property values here are still high, and Allen wants to put that value to use before it’s gone.

That’s why the 43-year-old Democrat has proposed legislation to create a revolving loan program, allowing California counties and communities to purchase vulnerable coastal properties. The goal would then be to rent those properties out, either to the original homeowner or someone else, and use that money to pay off the loan until the property is no longer safe to live in.

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