First Street Foundation, a climate research organization that studies the impacts of flooding on housing, announced Tuesday that it will share data with both the public and top researchers in a move that could ultimately benefit consumers.

The foundation’s flood data will be shared as part of a new partnership known as Flood Lab. The partnership includes researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas, Austin, and five other academic institutions, according to a statement. Those institutions will then use the data to examine “the financial, social, fiscal, and economic impacts of flood risk,” according to a First Street Foundation statement.

Matthew Eby

The end result of this project could ultimately be pressure on home prices, as well as mortgage-backed securities and municipal bonds, First Street Foundation executive director Matthew Eby told Reuters.

First Street Foundation also argued that sharing its data with both the public and with various academic institutions contrasts sharply with the way flood risk is normally evaluated today. In its statement, the foundation said that typically “an oligopoly of for-profit firms sell detailed flood risk data to large financial institutions and insurance companies.” Meanwhile, researchers lack access to that same information, leading to a lack of transparency.

The new partnership is meant to correct that problem.

“By giving this data to the world’s top experts for analysis and sharing it with the public, First Street Foundation will disrupt a dangerous asymmetry of information in the United States, one that allows institutional investors and the wealthy to capitalize on the changing climate while disempowering the vast majority of Americans to protect themselves and plan for their future,” Eby added in a statement.

The data will also be available to the public, via a searchable online database, sometime during the first half of this year.

The impact of flooding, and climate change generally, on the housing market is a growing concern. For example, law makers have been grappling for years with how to reform a long-troubled federal flood insurance program, even as tens of millions of Americans continue to live in flood-prone areas.

Meanwhile, climate-fueled disasters such as wildfires have already begun to drive up the of cost both housing and adjacent services such as insurance, in some parts of the U.S.

First Street Foundation — which describes itself as a non-profit “working to calculate the past, present, and future flood risk of every home and property in the United States” — now hopes to improve the broader understanding of such issues with its new data-sharing partnership.

“As partners of the First Street Foundation Flood Lab, the researchers will analyze flooding’s impact on the U.S. housing market,” the organization said in a statement, “its implications for lower income and minority communities, and its cost to federal, state, and local taxpayers among other issues.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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