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‘Extreme Heat Edition’ Predicts Hotter Temperatures as Californians Move to Find Cheaper Housing

As Californians are moving to different areas of the state to find cheaper housing, they’re also finding hotter temperatures. The Public Health Alliance of Southern California, based at PHI, developed an Extreme Heat Edition mapping index in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, for community leaders, journalists and others to use to identify which areas and populations will be most affected by heat this season and in the years to come.

  • Los Angeles Times
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“Sharon Daniels, 66, had lived in Antioch since 1984.

But growing concerned about crime, she and her husband decided it was time to move away from the East Bay and its delta breezes to a more affordable, far-flung community in the San Joaquin Valley. She and her husband, Anthony, saw ads for new developments in the city of Lathrop in San Joaquin County, where they could build a new home for the same price as buying an existing one in Antioch.

The median home in Lathrop sold for $530,400 in June 2023, compared with $930,000 in Antioch’s Contra Costa County, according to the California Assn. of Realtors.  The couple recently built a home in Lathrop, which keeps them within about a 30-minute drive of their daughter and grandchildren in the Bay Area.

“I feel very safe here. No more police chases and sirens at night,” she said, citing a drive-by shooting on their block as a key reason they left Antioch. “For us it’s a win.”

Except for one thing. “It’s significantly hotter out here,” she said.

As with most communities in California, the stark difference in home prices between the Danielses’ former and current counties of residence is inversely related to the climate: The hotter a region is, the more affordable housing is.

Contra Costa County — home to Antioch — will have 71 days of extreme heat annually on average between 2035 and 2064, according to projections in a study from the Public Health Alliance of Southern California and UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. As the Earth warms, 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.  Part of the 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.

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, said Zack Subin, an associate research director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley.

However, these cities are the least affordable places to build and live in the state.  Some coastal communities have proved aggressively resistant to increasing density, boosting affordable housing and allowing more development. That has left inland exurbs as drivers of 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.

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. As more people move to places like Fresno and Sacramento, Subin said, heat resilience will be a primary concern.”

Californians who move to those communities will need “good tree cover, high-quality heating and cooling systems, neighborhood cooling centers that are available in emergencies,” he said.

To read the full article, click on the link below. Registration or a subscription might be required to access this full article. This story also ran in The Seattle Times and Star Beacon. 

Originally published by Los Angeles Times

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