Erosion, Sea Levels Threaten Viability of Waterfront Homes

August 13, 2018

Rising sea levels may be prompting affluent home buyers to rethink purchasing waterfront vacation properties along the country's coasts. Cities and homeowners in wealthy oceanside enclaves on the eastern and western seaboards are fighting to keep erosion and high tides from damaging homes, The Washington Post reports.

Condos on the beach

© Alex Tihonov - Moment/Getty Images

“I plan to stay and fight as long as I can,” homeowner Justine Kenney told the Post about trying to save her 1940s home in Nantucket, Mass. “I’m not even thinking about giving up my house—at least not yet.” Rising tides in recent years have caused erosion to bluffs in the area where homes are perched.

Some homeowners in the area have spent millions of dollars to reposition their homes on a safer area of their lots. Others have moved elsewhere on the island.

Some areas in Nantucket have lost nearly 100 feet of beachfront over the past few years, according to the Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund. Local officials are installing seven-foot-tall jute sandbags to line the bluff for 1,000 feet in an attempt to save beachfront homes.

In Malibu, Calif., local officials also are trying to restore beaches and dunes that have been receding over the last 10 years. The city is planning to spend $55 million to $60 million every decade to haul in sand and replace the disappearing shore line. “A lot of these wealthier homeowners are playing chicken with nature and losing,” Phillip Johnson, executive director of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, told the Post. The Rockaway Beach in Oregon has lost about 164 yards of its beach in recent years.

Rising sea levels are causing the coastlines to erode faster than ever, geologists warn. More than 300,000 homes in the U.S. will likely be affected by chronic flooding within the next 30 years due to rising sea levels, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Erosion doesn’t destroy the beach or the environment,” Robert Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University, told the Post. “The problem comes when you build on them and you don’t want to move away.”