Buyouts Proposed for NY Flood Zones

Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Blog, Coastal Development, Coastal Resilience | 0 comments

Hurricane Sandy New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a $400 million proposal to purchase homes along the coastline to help prevent future storm flood disasters. Under the proposal, which would require approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, shoreline properties would be purchased so that the land could be restored to dunes, wetlands, parks, or other natural buffers to help prevent flood damage in future storms.

This is not a new idea — FEMA has purchased hurricane-damaged properties after hurricanes past — but there has never been a proposal of this size or scope. Cuomo’s proposal is a significant manifestation of a “managed retreat” due to threats from bigger storms and rising seas from a warming climate.

According to the New York Times:

Residents living in flood plains with homes that were significantly damaged would be offered the pre-storm value of their houses to relocate; those in even more vulnerable areas would be offered a bonus to sell; and in a small number of highly flood-prone areas, the state would double the bonus if an entire block of homeowners agreed to leave.

The proposal is derived from recommendations of the NYS 2100 Commission, one of several panels formed after Sandy to bolster resiliency of coasts and communities in light of the difficult lessons learned.

Indeed, the proposal does seem to be entirely sane approach. As Erik Goldstein at NRDC writes:

  • First, it would assist beleaguered homeowners whose neighborhoods were walloped in Hurricane Sandy and who desire to move their families out of harms’ way before the next storm hits.
  • Second, it would provide greater protection for those who choose to remain in flood zones by converting the properties that would be purchased into parkland, wetlands, and dunes that would serve as sponges in future disasters.
  • Third, it would minimize taxpayer expenditures for yet another floodplain rebuilding program, which would no doubt be established after the next inevitable hurricane hits our shores.

We expect that Andrew Cuomo, a former Secretary at HUD, would understand the ins and outs of federal approval as well as anyone, so we are hopeful for swift federal approval.  Managed retreat will become more than a buzzword as communities face threats of climate change, and New York may be pointing at the new normal for developed coastlines.

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