As sea levels rise, flooding threatens many homes near the coast. And as the problem gets worse, people living in affordable housing could be hit hard.

Ben Strauss is chief scientist at Climate Central, a non-profit research organization. His team analyzed the inventory of subsidized and low-rent housing units in coastal communities around the United States. They found that if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked, the number of affordable housing units at risk of coastal flooding is expected to triple within a few decades.

In some places, the change could be dramatic. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, more than half of affordable housing units are projected to flood at least once a year by mid-century.

If a home floods even infrequently, it can be disruptive, costly, and dangerous. Recovering is particularly difficult for people with few financial resources.

And because affordable housing is already scarce in many areas, residents may struggle to find new places to live.

So Strauss says that as sea levels rise, “If a community is going to invest public resources in protecting people … we might consider that they could be best spent in helping those who don’t have the means to help themselves.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson.