Climate Risk in the Housing Market Has Echoes of Subprime Crisis

Banks are shielding themselves from climate change at taxpayers’ expense by shifting riskier mortgages — such as those in coastal areas — off their books and over to the federal government, new research suggests.
The findings echo the subprime lending crisis of 2008, when unexpected drops in home values cascaded through the economy and triggered recession. One difference this time is that those values would be less likely to rebound, because many of the homes literally would be underwater.
In a paper to be released Monday, the researchers say their findings show “a potential threat to the stability of financial institutions.” They warn that the threat will grow as global warming leads to more frequent and more severe disasters, forcing more loans to go into default as homeowners cannot or would not make mortgage payments.
“We’re talking about a loss that’s going to be borne by United States taxpayers,” said Amine Ouazad, a professor in the department of applied economics at HEC Montreal and one of the paper’s authors. He added that with between $60 billion to $100 billion in new mortgages issued for coastal homes each year, “we’re not talking about a small number.”


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