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Study: Ocean City’s property values ‘hardest hit’ by sea level rise

Tidal flooding in North Wildwood in late January 2016. (North Wildwood Police Department)

Tidal flooding in North Wildwood in late January 2016. (North Wildwood Police Department)

Property values in Ocean City have eroded by more than a half-billion dollars because of sea level rise, a study by the First Street Foundation and Columbia University has found.

With a property value loss of $530,439,399 due to increasing tidal flooding, the Cape May County municipality is also the “hardest hit” community along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, according to the peer-reviewed research conducted by data scientists over a 12-year period.

New Jersey is second to Florida with a total property value loss of $4,522,798,463, while the study found that $15.8 billion of property value has eroded from Maine to Mississippi.

The researchers say they were able to isolate the impact of increased tidal flooding due to sea level rise by taking into account the characteristics typically associated with home value and economic trends since 2005.

Dr. Jeremy R. Porter, a Columbia University professor and First Street Foundation statistical consultant, says the results indicate that no coastal areas are immune from the threat.

“From Maine to Florida and through the Gulf Coast, we have seen the same phenomenon,” he said. “Increased tidal flooding has led to a loss in home value appreciation. We expect this trend to not only continue in the coming years, but to accelerate along with the accelerating rate of sea level rise.”

But Doug Bergen, a spokesman for Ocean City, tells The Press of Atlantic City that the data is “implausible” because the study does not quantify a loss in actual value, stating that the municipality’s property valuation “has risen substantially since 2005.”

According to the real estate site Trulia, the median home sales price in Ocean City hit a peak of $640,000 in January 2006. The median sales price in January 2019 was $441,000.

Homeowners can utilize the interactive mapping tool at FloodiQ.com to see current and future inundation estimates for frequent and highest annual tidal floods.

Last June, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report found that high-tide flooding, sometimes called sunny-day or “nuisance flooding,” tied or set records last year in more than a quarter of the 98 places the agency monitors around the country.

“Though year-to-year and regional variability exist, the underlying trend is quite clear: Due to sea level rise, the national average frequency of high tide flooding is double what it was 30 years ago,” the report said.

Ben Horton, a Rutgers University researcher who was not involved in the study, called it “a warning, a shot across the bow.”

“Across the whole of the U.S. coastline, we are in dire need of action,” he said.

In addition to the conclusions of the report, Horton said it is just as significant that “this is a federally funded sea-level assessment funded by the Trump Administration, and it shows that the problems on our coasts are getting worse and will get worse.”

President Donald Trump has derided climate change as a hoax.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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