Moving People Out of Flood Zones Is a Win-Win Strategy

As the threat of flooding increases, buyout programs to relocate homeowners are a better alternative to rebuilding—for cities and residents.

1 minute read

July 16, 2019, 12:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink


nevieklejigh94 / Flickr

John Schwartz reports on buyout programs that pay homeowners to move out of flood-prone areas. Cities can then level homes and turn the land into open space and green infrastructure to help mitigate future flooding impacts.

It is a more cost-effective strategy than rebuilding. "The costs of flooding continue to climb, but only 20 percent of the money that the Federal Emergency Management Agency distributes in disaster grants is earmarked for pre-disaster work, even though research shows that a dollar spent on mitigation before a disaster strikes results in at least six dollars in savings," writes Schwartz.

Over 20 years ago, Nashville started buying homes in hazardous areas, and the city's successful program is a model for planning ahead of flooding disasters. Many residents welcome the option to relocate, but cities executing buyout programs still face an uphill battle with long-term residents or when the financial benefits might not be substantial enough.

"Nicholas Pinter, the associate director of the center for watershed sciences at the University of California, Davis, said the challenges to 'overcoming social inertia' are so high because of 'the intense sense of place that people have,'" notes Schwartz.

Saturday, July 6, 2019 in The New York Times

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Aerial view of Vail, Colorado in winter with multi-story buildings in foregorund and snowy mountains in background.

Opinion: Resort Towns Must Take Action to Keep Housing Affordable

The workers that keep many popular tourist destinations running find it more difficult to find affordable housing near their jobs as more remote workers move to scenic resort areas.

21 minutes ago - Governing

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio, Texas.

Commentary: San Antonio Needs ‘Thoughtful Reforms’ to Improve Affordability

The growing Texas city needs a new approach to meet its residents’ housing and mobility needs.

1 hour ago - San Antonio Report

Aerial view of glass high-rise buildings on waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Video: How Tall Should Buildings Be?

Is there an ideal height — or should buildings be as tall as they need to be to fulfill housing needs?

2 hours ago - Next City

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.