The Personal and Systemic Costs of Hidden Flood Risk

Following the recent floods in Ottawa, the CBC’s Neil MacDonald has put together an interesting piece:

I would never consider buying near the river nowadays, for obvious reasons, and my guess is the miserable residents on those sandbagged streets spend a lot of time contemplating both their home values and the next catastrophic flood. There have been two in the last three years. The Ottawa River surged past its banks weeks ago, and is still frighteningly swollen.

It never occurred to me, back in 2015, to check whether the home we tried to buy was at risk of flooding. Being near the river was a plus, not a threat. And even if I had checked, it probably wouldn’t have done much good. Flood plain maps in Canada are about 25 years out of date.

But that’s about to change. Next year, the federal government will begin uploading nearly 2,000 user-friendly flood plain maps, updating them with the most recent geospatial data. Eventually, entire communities will find themselves publicly identified as at-risk. What that will do to the value of their homes and their flood insurance premiums (assuming they can even get insurance), is obvious.

The article also features some discussion and estimates from Prof. Feltmate of the Intact [Insurance] Centre on Climate Adaptation.