There is already evidence of a real estate slump in the United States. A housing recession is predicted for 2020. The average price of luxury home sales is falling, as is the number of sales. Long Island specifically is suffering as sales decrease and homes lose value. This is rather astonishing given that the rest of the economy is still on steroids.
What are the reasons? The following have all been suggested.
First, baby boomers from New York are downsizing and moving to lower-tax states. Second, millennials seem to have a distaste for buying second homes and would rather rent. Third, bonuses on Wall Street fell 17 percent in 2018 compared with 2017.
Fourth, the tax changes brought on by Donald Trump: a cap of $10,000 on the amount of state and local taxes (SALT), including property taxes, that can be deducted from federal income tax. For an expensive home with property taxes of $50,000 per year, this means that $40,000 can no longer be deducted.
Fifth, as mentioned by some real estate professionals: chronic flooding, which threatens the values of houses here. According to Aidan Gardiner writing for The Real Deal, a website focusing on New York real estate news: “Chronic flooding threatens to sink the value of Hamptons homes. Hamptons homes are very likely to lose value given that they’ll face chronic flooding as climate changes and sea levels rise over the coming years, according to Bloomberg. Behind only central California, the area has the second-highest level of its property tax revenue at risk among U.S. municipalities with a high likelihood of chronic flooding in the next 12 years. Climate change is expected to bring constant floods that would tank property values, erode infrastructure, and sink tax revenue, all of which will make it harder to fund projects to battle the rising seas.”
You can check for yourself on ss2.climatecentral.org, where you can find a “risk zone map for surging seas.” You can input anything from “unchecked pollution” to “extreme carbon cuts,” depending on how you predict future policies will rein in carbon emissions.
I assumed unchecked carbon emissions along the lines of our present-day emissions, and I asked for maps of a 10-foot water level rise. The program produces maps with dark blue shaded areas that will be underwater. Here are some of the highlights for the not so distant future (2050 to 2100).
Montauk will become an island, the Napeague stretch will be underwater, and much of downtown Montauk will be too, including Route 27. Flooding of Route 27 across Napeague will start with just a three-foot rise in sea water levels, shutting down access to Montauk.
Homes all around Accabonac Harbor will be flooded. Gerard Drive and Louse Point will be submerged. Maidstone Park, Sammy’s Beach, and Cedar Point will be gone. Barcelona Point and the Sag Harbor Golf Course will become an island.
Beach homes in Amagansett, homes along Two Mile Hollow Beach, homes around Hook Pond, Georgica Pond, and Wainscott Pond will all be underwater. Indeed, a few homes on Beach Lane in Wainscott will be submerged. That is where the cable from the South Fork Wind Farm is proposed to come ashore and where some of its opponents own property.
Much of Sag Harbor Village will be underwater, and North Haven will be a real island.
Up and down Long Island, the homes close to the South Shore will be underwater, and Fire Island will no longer exist.
The North Shore, too, will be flooded, and Greenport will be on an island.
Kennedy International Airport will be underwater.
It is not just someone else’s problem. Loss of value of high-end homes means loss of significant local business and loss of jobs, and it spills over, resulting in loss of the value of your own property regardless of whether it is in particular danger of flooding.
Showtime’s “The Affair” recently wrapped up its final season, and part of it was set in mid-21st-century Montauk, with warming temperatures and rising seas. The show forecasts what life will look like in 34 short years, including mass transit that routinely short-circuits because of flooding, coastal communities plunged into near-total darkness, and shoreline towns without basic municipal services.
We had better support clean energy (including offshore wind) and work to decrease our carbon footprint. It is urgent.
David Posnett, M.D., is emeritus professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan. He lives in Springs.