Environment

Increased flooding will hit England's poorest hardest, new research shows

The research also found that house building increased 50% faster in areas prone to flooding than in neighbourhoods with no flood risk.

A river flooding in the UK.

Just one third of the poorest households have contents insurance. Image: Pixabay

Increased flooding events driven by climate change will hit England’s poorest households hardest due to a widespread lack of insurance cover, new research has found. 

A report titled Housing Outlook by think tank The Resolution Foundation found just one in three (33 per cent) of the country’s poorest households are covered by contents insurance – leaving millions vulnerable to high financial costs following floods.

In February, The Big Issue revealed some of the most disadvantaged, flood-prone homes in England are still lacking protection against flooding.

The report found neighbourhoods with middling deprivation levels have the highest flood risk, largely due to the fact that the poorest neighbourhoods are found in cities, which tend to be less vulnerable to flooding. 

However, the foundation said 95,000 homes in the most deprived English neighbourhoods are currently at medium or high risk of flooding

Though not necessarily most exposed to flood events themselves, the research found the poorest households are most vulnerable to the financial impacts of floods, due to a lack of insurance cover.

Around two-thirds of the poorest households have no contents insurance, a type of cover which is essential for minimising the financial burden of recovering from floods. 

One in three of those who don’t currently have contents insurance said they would like cover, but aren’t able to afford it. 

The Housing Outlook report also found that housebuilding rates have been higher in flood prone areas than those without flood risk in recent years.

Between 2015 and 2021, neighbourhoods that have some risk of flooding from either rivers or the sea saw their housing stock increase around 50 per cent faster than those with no flood risk. Many of these new homes, however, were in areas where demand for housing is high. 

The government has committed billions of pounds to spending on flood defences across the UK, with flooding one of the primary risks faced by the country as climate change accelerates.

Yet while the Housing Outlook report did find a number of homes are now better protected, researchers said funding is skewed towards cities, meaning lower-income people living in rural areas may be missing out. 

The Resolution Foundation has called on the government to ensure that the next round of funding reaches deprived neighbourhoods in rural areas, as well as improving the affordability of insurance for low-income households.

Jonathan Marshall, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Rising rainfall levels, combined with increased rates of house building on flood-prone land, means that serious flooding events will become much more frequent in the UK and that the number of people exposed to flooding will continue to grow.

“This is of particular concern for poorer families who are the least protected from the consequences of flooding, as they are much less likely to possess contents insurance than their wealthier counterparts.

“Tackling the climate change that lies behind much of this increased risk remains a vital long-term goal. But, in the meantime, policy makers must ensure new homes are flood-safe, and that flood defence spending is targeted in a way that helps these at-risk families. 

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