Pro Bono News

Before the Flood: How to Plan and Design Proactive Buyout Programs that Work (Op-ed)

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Before the Flood: How to Plan and Design Proactive Buyout Programs that Work

"Floods change communities forever. Time and time again, storms have destroyed the homes of populations living in floodways and floodplains. Many people choose to stay and rebuild, only to experience another catastrophic weather event several years later.

Buyouts are a critical component of a holistic approach to smart and resilient community recovery after a disaster. They save lives and save taxpayers money. As disasters increase in frequency and intensity and more funding becomes available following disasters, federal recovery dollars are shifting toward these preventative programs.

Thanks to opportunities provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program, along with state and local government initiatives, residents in many at-risk regions now have a chance to choose a safer path for their future.

After flooding events in 2011, for example, Pennsylvania was able to leverage FEMA and HUD funding to ultimately purchase almost 700 properties. As a result of this program, in one locality — Plymouth Township — there are almost no homes or businesses in a flood zone. And in one neighborhood, the state worked with HUD to provide assistance for low and moderate income households living in homes that were sinking due to a flooding event and had no other means to move.

Buyouts of flood-prone properties remove people and properties from high-risk areas while providing assistance to purchase a home in a safer area. The purchased properties are converted into open spaces to absorb flood waters in future storms, making the wider community more resilient to weather events and expanding local parklands, wetlands, forests, and wildlife management areas.

Numerous state and local governments are using their recovery funding for buyouts to proactively get ahead of current and future risks rather than mitigating the aftermath. Public and community leaders know that flooding will continue to occur in these areas, so they are making wise investments to protect the well-being of residents in advance..."

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