Philanthropic Investment in Shelter and Security
There is an overwhelming consensus in the field of research that there is a connection between climate change and housing security, with climate change being the causative agent of homelessness and housing problems. Climate change-related impacts, including tropical cyclones, flooding, extreme heat, landslides, coastal erosion, and storm surges are damaging housing of the urban poor and act as a multiplier of poor housing vulnerabilities.
Climate Change Causes Housing Insecurity
- One of the risk factors of housing insecurity is climate change. Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas is increasing the global temperature, which is causing devastating effects on housing.
- According to the Climate Reality Project Organization, climatic events like heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and drought are becoming more intense. In the worst cases, these disasters can clear houses and even entire communities.
- In 2019, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that the US is experiencing a shortage of 7.2 million affordable rental homes for low-income households. This means that when destructive climatic events like floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, low-income families are forced out of their homes and face a shortage of options for alternatives.
- Further research has found that increasing climate variability is associated with housing problems across the globe. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), half of the world’s slum population is based in the Asia-Pacific due to lack of proper housing alternatives and affordable houses. The housing problems in the region is exacerbated by climate change.
- The UNDP noted that across the Asia-Pacific, climate change-related impacts, including tropical cyclones, flooding, extreme heat, landslides, coastal erosion, and storm surges are damaging housing of the urban poor.
- Climate change increases housing insecurity because low-income populations are vulnerable to climate shocks since recovery programs never consider or address their needs adequately. The Center for American Progress recently carried out a research to examine the ways in which climate change acts as a multiplier of poor housing vulnerabilities. For instance, the displacement of low-income families in Miami increased after wealthier families moved to neighborhoods on higher grounds to avoid the risks of flooding.
- In addition, low-income families also face increased instability when there are "mal-adaptive" strategies that are expected to address climate change threats. Cities like Miami are witnessing increased housing costs in high-leveled areas where low-income families reside because the areas have high land value.
- Forbes also reported that climate change is causing housing problems and is increasing homelessness. In a 2018 report published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was clear that homelessness in the US increased by 2% between 2017 and 2018 due to climate change.
Housing Insecurity Exacerbates Exposure to Climate Change
- The exponential rise in rents and housing prices across the globe is currently increasing financial pressure to low-income families. Due to expensive housing, people with complex responsibilities and needs opt for substandard and dangerous accommodation, which, in turn, increases exposure to climate-related hazards.
- Lack of privacy and overcrowding caused by poor housing is placing people at increased exposure to multiple hazards, and climate change can only intensify such issues. For example, extreme weather patterns like intense heat are exacerbated in housing with inadequate air-conditioning and ventilation, leading to severe illnesses.
- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that the 2017 Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into Texas, caused damages worth over $125 billion and greatly affected the low-income population who were already suffering from shortage of affordable housing. The hurricane has exacerbated the issue of homelessness by 15%, with the majority of the poor population living in uninhabitable dwellings without mass transit.
Climate Change Exacerbates the Risks of Homelessness
- Safe, secure, and affordable housing is associated with adapting to and coping with extreme weather driven by climate change. Individuals who lack shelter or sleep rough are usually at a greater risk of adverse weather than the general population.
- According to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), homeless people always lack the capacity to recover from or cope with climate change events since they have fewer or no financial resources and materials to help them stay safe.
- People with poor housing always have higher rates of respiratory diseases, chronic diseases, smoking, substance abuse, and mental illness compared to the general population. This exposure renders them vulnerable to adverse climate change events, including storms, floods, heatwaves, air pollution, and vector-borne diseases. In particular, extreme heat increases the health risks of the homeless population.