What will be the new reality for the Sunshine State in an age of global warming? Probably the most notable city on the face of this Earth which can give you some insight as to where Florida is heading is Venice, Italy. Despite a sea-saw market, Venetian homes are still considered to be the most expensive, on average, in the Italian nation at about $450.00 per square foot. (I did the math for you, converting from Euros and meters to Dollars and square feet.) While average prices can be deceiving, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale average, according to Zillow, is $211.00 per square foot. The point is that despite being under the constant and well recognized threat of flooding, the city survives and to some extent holds its value. Is this a sign of human resilience or human folly? Cottage industries related to mold eradication and concrete reinforcement have blossomed. A huge infrastructure program of floodgates was begun in 2003 and was recently finished. It has received mixed reviews. Estimated costs to save one city was in excess of $1.6 billion Dollars.
Is Miami Beach ready? Well, it could be in that it is a city with the substantial value and commerce to afford such a program. It is spending $100 million Dollars on its infrastructure this year alone. But what about the “bedroom” communities of Palm Beach County or the other smaller municipalities up and down the coastline? How does Manalapan, Florida or for that matter, Delray Beach, Florida take on an infrastructure project of that size?
Watch out for zoning initiatives that prohibit or limit construction within flood prone areas. Insurance red-lining will become a fight, even with state initiated programs. How many times does the public or for that matter, a private insurance company, underwrite the rebuilding of a structure for an individual before society gets to say, “You are on your own.” These are going to be pretty difficult decisions with profound implications. Will the wealthy just head off to Aspen, Colorado instead of the beach (as if there could be no avalanche, rock slide or any other natural disaster)? Is an electrical fire still more likely to bring down your house than at Category 5 hurricane? The economic impact will be unpredictable and the response of local government needs to be discussed and framed for the financial health of this State.
Let’s start right now considering what makes a resilient community, how much it will cost and if we can get our priorities right. Forget the next traffic jam. What are you going to do to stay afloat?