For decades, the ocean and beautiful Miami beaches have pushed investors to spend millions in real estate. In fact, the skyline currently consists of just as many construction cranes as it does buildings. That’s because there is no denying that the real estate market in South Florida is at its prime.
“People pay a premium to live in the water. And I don’t see that changing,” says Samantha DeBianchi, South Florida real estate agent and star on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Miami. “People are still breaking millions upon millions of dollars to see the water or be on the water.”
While water seems to be the key selling point for so many, it’s also the biggest threat to a multi-billion dollar real estate business. Like Venice, scientists warn that South Florida is just decades away from extreme urban flooding.
“Do I have clients saying am I going to be under water? I never get that question” says Debianchi. “Is it in peoples mind, I would be lying if I said no.”
The City of Miami and Miami Beach have turned into a poster child for global warming. With rising sea levels around the world, coastal cities are rushing to find solutions to keep their neighborhoods afloat. Yet in Miami, it’s the rapid sea level rise that has scientist and city officials alarmed.
“Since 2006, the rate of sea level rise has accelerated,” explains Amy Clement, atmospheric studies professor at the University of Miami. “The rising sea levels are double the rate that they were between 2006 and today than it was for the prior 10 years.”
What makes matters worst is that the city is built on top of limestone. Meaning that as sea levels rise, water is seeping through the porous rock and as a result flooding the streets of Miami.
“We have to start building up,” says Ana Benatuil, a Miami based architect. “Look at Venice, they have these temporary sidewalks when there is a high tide. So I think we have to build thinking about that because we are not going to be able to use our cars when the streets are flooded.”
City officials know that. The City of Miami Breach has spent more than 100 million dollars installing pumps that will help ease the ongoing urban flooding that affects the streets during high tides or severe rainstorms. All of these projects funded largely by real estate taxes of the same homes that run the risk of flooding. Currently over 22,000 condos are in development in downtown Miami alone.
“It’s not like an earthquake or a hurricane that comes in and we are in emergency and we have to do something right away,” warns Benatuil. “This is something we know is happening. We don’t know how fast it’s going to happen. But it will happen.”