At first glance, the elegant single-family homes on an Oregon beachfront are idyllic coastal retreats.
But there’s a catch: Not only do the half-million-dollar properties in Lincoln Beach offer endless ocean views, the cliffs they’re built on carry a real risk of crumbling into the sea.
It could be a dozen years from now, it could be a few decades or more, but eventually coastal erosion, exacerbated by rising sea levels, will make some of them uninhabitable. And without major intervention, they will be completely lost in the ocean.
Lincoln Beach residents got a terrifying reminder of the peril in March 2021, when a seawall collapsed and at least three homes teetering precariously close to the cliff’s edge. wonderful, the property was undamaged and new defenses were installed.
These homes are among the thousands along America’s coasts that are literally feet away from disaster, either because they are built on cliffs or because they are perilously close to the ocean. The danger has been increased by extreme weather events, such as the storms that have ravaged states like California and Florida in recent months.
A seawall collapsed in Lincoln Beach, Oregon, in March 2021, nearly causing several bluff homes to crash into the ocean. These properties are among more than 300,000 coastal homes in America at risk of ‘chronic inundation’ from water within 27 years
A multi-million dollar row of homes in Malibu, California, is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a thin strip of beach. Officials there have accepted that some properties on the coast cannot be saved and are working to ensure owners don’t lose if homes are swallowed up by the sea
Homes along Esplanade Avenue in Pacifica, south of San Francisco, were abandoned and later demolished as the threat of a cliff collapse increased. The city became “ground zero for the issue of coastal erosion” in America
An entire neighborhood in Pacifica was demolished due to the threat of cliff collapse
The walkway to an apartment building that fell off a cliff on Esplanade Ave in Pacifica, California
A 2018 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said more than 300,000 coastal homes across the country, valued collectively at nearly $120 billion, are at risk of “chronic inundation” from water within 27 years.
Several hundred miles from Lincoln Beach, Oregon meets California, where a report predicted by state officials in 2020 that “between $8 billion and $10 billion in existing real estate is likely to be underwater by 2050.” By then, another $6 billion to $10 billion worth of real estate will be at risk during high tides.
On a stretch of beautiful coastline in Malibu, the millionaire’s enclave west of Los Angeles, a row of exclusive multimillion-dollar homes face the Pacific Ocean, protected from the ocean by a narrow expanse of beach.
They are built on stilts to protect them from the tides, but city officials accept that those defenses will become useless over time.
In California, state officials predicted in 2020 that “between $8 billion and $10 billion in existing real estate is likely to be underwater by 2050.” Pictured: A staircase that once led to an oceanfront home near Bodega Bay
Bodega Bay has several cliff dwellings that have either fallen off the cliffs or been condemned for risk
Bodega Bay in California. While many homes are not currently in danger, some are perilously close to the ocean
State officials are considering plans to buy back these high-risk coastal properties from their owners and then rent them out until they are too dangerous to live in. With this revolving loan program, they hope to alleviate the financial distress of both the homeowners and the state when the properties are engulfed by the sea.
Farther up the coast in Pacifica, a few miles south of San Francisco, an entire neighborhood was demolished in 2017 as the coastline around it slowly receded until the threat became unmanageable.
Some families there had moved into their homes just eight years earlier and had spent thousands of dollars on renovations — an indication of how small the threat of a cliff collapse had seemed until recently.
The main reason for the dilemma is rising sea levels. An alarming one report published last year by the National Ocean Service said sea levels across the country will rise an average of 10 to 12 inches by 2050, mainly due to climate change.
The numbers may seem small, but every inch increases the risk of devastating coastal flooding. Cliffs are also at greater risk of collapse.
It’s not just a problem on the west coast, either. Thousands of homes along America’s Atlantic coast are also threatened by rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
At least seven homes in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, Florida, collapsed into the ocean as Hurricane Nicole battered the state in November
After the storm, several residents of the small community expressed concern about the damage future extreme weather events could cause
More than two dozen homes were declared structurally unsafe in the aftermath of the storm
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood likened the devastation in Wilbur-by-the-Sea to ‘getting hit by a bomb’
The storm was a stark reminder of the risks associated with living by the ocean
The problem came to light when Hurricane Nicole swept through parts of Florida in November, causing property damage totaling at least half a billion dollars.
In the small, unincorporated community of Wilbur-by-the-Sea, in Volusia County, at least seven homes collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean during the storm and dozens more were declared structurally unsafe.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood likened the devastation to “getting hit by a bomb.”
“Pools, washers, dryers, hot tubs, dining tables, it’s all in the ocean,” he said.
Many families in the community have lived in their homes for decades. The storm was a stark reminder of the risks associated with living by the ocean.
Diane Hambric, whose porch and deck area were swept away, said without proper defense that she was “deeply concerned” about the prospect of another severe storm.
She also summed up the desire to live in these coastal beauty spots despite the threat that a family home could collapse into the ocean.
“My kids love it, my granddaughters love it,” said Hambric. “It’s something worth so much pain to get to where we’re whole again.”