Millions of American homeowners like Mary Morse find themselves stuck in a financial bind, facing mounting risks from wildfires and floods linked to climate change while their home insurance rates rocket upwards. Increasingly, the crowning blow comes when insurers withdraw coverage, leaving individuals and even entire communities vulnerable.

“I got a letter from my insurance company that said, ‘We’re not going to serve your area anymore’,” Morse, 75, told CBS News about her Pine Cove, California, home. “I even sent [the insurance agent] a picture of my fire hydrant. It didn’t help.”

The growing risk of wildfire means that some parts of California are becoming “essentially ‘uninsurable’,” according to a new analysis from the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that studies climate risks, shared first with CBS News. The research has alarming implications for homeowners across the U.S., with even residents of inland states such as Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia facing sharply higher insurance costs because of increased damage from extreme weather that experts attribute in part to climate change.

About 35.6 million properties — one-quarter of all U.S. real estate — face increasing insurance prices and reduced coverage due to high climate risks, the analysis found. The rise in insurance costs isn’t merely a hit to homeowners’ budgets, however — the higher costs also devalue their properties, First Street said.

“Absolutely crippling”

“You’re talking about getting a letter in the mail that says somewhere between 60%, and as high as mid-80%, increases for policies,” First Street CEO Matthew Eby said. “That is crippling. Absolutely crippling. And so those homes are not, from an investment scenario, something that you would invest in.”

Morse said she put her house on the market for a year, but it didn’t sell — a failure she ascribes to the recent rise in mortgage rates as well as her insurer withdrawing from her region.

“The interest rates went up at the same time as the fire insurance went away. And I think a combination of that made it really difficult for people to purchase houses,” she said.

Pine Cove, located in Riverside County, California, just over 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles, ranks as one of the 10 worst zip codes for insurance non-renewals in the U.S, according to First Street. The firm also found that Riverside County is most at risk to losing homes and other properties due to wildfires each year.

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