Whether in response to sudden disasters or “slow‑onset” conditions like sea level rise, intolerable heat, or water scarcity, millions, if not billions, of people in the United States and around the world are likely to move in the coming decades. Where will people go? While considerable attention has focused on how communities can adapt to a changing climate in place, less attention has focused on those who choose or are compelled by circumstances to leave and the neighborhoods, cities, and states likely to absorb them. The experience will be most challenging for marginalized and low‑income migrants, who will face significant hurdles in finding adequate housing and other resources. In‑migration could intensify existing stresses within receiving communities, including gentrification, insufficient affordable housing, unemployment, and inadequate resources to manage the needs of an increasing population.
Focusing on housing, this Essay argues that a national strategy to address the needs of migrants and receiving communities is necessary. That strategy should incorporate roles for multiple levels of government. Against a backdrop of key federalism values, including pragmatism, democratic legitimacy, and the prevention of tyranny, the Essay identifies appropriate roles for federal and local governments.