By David M. Greenwald
An analysis by the LA Times noted the inverse relationship between cost of housing and temperature. They tracked one family who moved from Antioch to Lathrop.
“The median home in Lathrop sold for $530,400 in June 2023, compared with $930,000 in Antioch’s Contra Costa County,” the Times reported. (Interesting because of course, Antioch was once a refuge for even more expensive and even cooler Bay Area cities).
It’s a big win for the family except for one problem—temperature.
The Times noted that the cost of home prices “is inversely related to the climate: The hotter a region is, the more affordable housing is.”
And that problem is likely to get worse.
For example, Antioch “will have 71 days of extreme heat annually on average between 2035 and 2064”—that’s a lot, but “San Joaquin County is expected to endure about 121 days above 90 degrees each year in the same time span.”
A Times analysis showed “a clear link between projected extreme heat and home prices in California: Counties with higher home prices are less likely to face dire heat projections, and vice versa. “
The Times explained that part of this dynamic “is explained by the fact that the state’s most expensive counties are coastal, and thus less likely to be hit hardest by extreme heat, though other climate change-fueled dangers such as sea level rise are still of concern.”
They talked to Zack Subin, an associate research director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley who explained, “The most efficient places to grow are California’s coastal cities, both in terms of lessening the environmental footprint of residents and limiting their exposure to heat.”
But this is counterbalanced by cost of living and much of that is self-inflicted.
Indeed, this largely goes against the need to put housing near jobs. Inland exurbs are absorbing a good deal of the new housing “even though they are significantly hotter and require long commutes to job centers.”
“We likely need more policy to better integrate the state’s housing affordability policies in concert with our climate strategies,” Subin said. “Compact development near the coasts (can) reduce emissions across sectors.”
This would allow people to drive less, building energy use is lower—partially due to less extreme heat—and undeveloped land inland can be left undisturbed.
Contrary to what some have been arguing, California’s coastal cities still have plenty of room to grow.
“It’s not a technical limitation, it’s a policy choice that we have chosen to reserve much of our [coastal] cities for surface parking lots, for exclusive single-family home zoning,” Subin said.
This is the point we made earlier in the month, growth into places where there is more heat is detrimental to climate change because it will force more people into hotter climates where “heat resilience will be a primary concern.”
The Times notes, “The state continues to build housing in places that will be most affected by extreme heat, and population is expected to grow in the Central Valley while shrinking in coastal cities and staying flat statewide.”