Adaptation Planning | Homes
We all want to be safe in our homes, for our families now, and for our children when they grow up. But climate change is a slow-moving disaster. Will your home be safe? How can you find out?
It’s important to have a long-term plan for your major asset so it doesn’t become a major liability. Is your home a forever home, or do you plan to sell? What timeframes are you thinking about?
Thinking through these questions will help your financial security and support community resilience. Your plan needs to consider what’s likely to happen in your area, including:
- what climate impacts are likely to hit and when
- what your council will or won’t do to protect infrastructure
- how your insurer or bank might change their policies over time
- how your property’s value might change over time.
These resources can help you understand and assess your climate risks.
If you’re buying or selling an existing property, how can you work out your climate risks? It may be harder than you think.
Local and regional councils have useful information, including through Land Information Memorandums (LIMs), long-term or regional plans and hazard maps.
Yet the quality and detail of council information varies. Localised research can be expensive and some councils don’t have detailed information. Others may not disclose all the risks due to concern about rates revenue or because some community members dispute the risks. It’s also important to understand that councils aren’t responsible for your private property, only for the public assets they own.
The “rateable valuation” or RV of a property doesn’t yet reflect its climate risk. In fact, instead of being cheaper because they aren’t as safe, climate-risky homes may be more expensive, because of their beautiful sea or hillside views.
As well as the risks to your specific property, you need to consider the risks (and the long-term plans) for your local infrastructure, such as sewage, roads or sea walls.
It’s not just sea level rise putting homes at risk, but our insistence on building in hazardous locations. Flash flooding, coastal erosion, landslips and extreme wind are all getting worse with climate change.
If you’re planning on building or developing, the risks are clearer for you than they were for your neighbours 50 years ago. Our laws on land development, however, have not yet caught up with our new and ever-changing climate reality. What you “can” do is not necessarily safe or responsible.
Though some major legislation is currently under review, such as the Resource Management Act (RMA), other legislation and policy like the Building Act or Covid-19 economic recovery plans don't yet take climate risk into proper account.
In Aotearoa, most of our houses are insured, as insurance is almost always a requirement for taking out a mortgage. But many homeowners don’t have enough insurance to fully replace their home.
We expect this to get worse. At-risk homes will become very expensive to insure. Though mortgages often last up to 30 years, insurance premiums are set annually. And these can rise, sometimes steeply. This is already happening in some locations.
Insurance companies may well “unbundle” climate risks and increase premiums, or withdraw insurance altogether for particular climate hazards. Some homes may become too risky to insure at all.
When this insurance “retreat” starts, properties are likely to lose insurance for climate hazards quickly. If you don’t have insurance, you are likely to be in technical default on your mortgage.
Rather than being afraid or secretive about the risks of climate change to our homes and communities, we need more information about the climate risks we face. At the same time, we need to be aware that we need to make decisions despite not knowing precisely how fast our climate is changing.
Nationally, research is clear that central government needs to step in to provide clear, comprehensive direction and resources to protect local and national infrastructure, and ensure that adaptation happens fairly.
RMA reform underway suggests Aotearoa will soon have new laws governing how we respond to our changing climate. The more involved you are with your community and with council planning, the better your community will fare. You can:
- Talk to your local council member or MP to make sure climate change is high on the agenda
- Support people who are exploring how your local community can respond and adapt to climate change
- Ask about local developments that don’t seem to consider flood patterns or sea level rise.