FEMA Spends $4 Billion on Floodplain Buyouts, Demolishing 50,000 Homes Since 1989

FEMA's $4B floodplain buyout program helps communities adapt to climate change by removing homes from high-risk areas, but the process can be controversial and impact housing needs.

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FEMA Spends $4 Billion on Floodplain Buyouts, Demolishing 50,000 Homes Since 1989

FEMA Spends $4 Billion on Floodplain Buyouts, Demolishing 50,000 Homes Since 1989

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent approximately $4 billion to purchase and demolish 45,000 to 50,000 flood-prone homes since 1989 through its floodplain buyout program. The properties, which are often severely damaged by flooding, are voluntarily sold by homeowners and permanently converted into public land to reduce the risk and impact of future floods.

FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program supports local and state governments in buying these homes, demolishing them, and turning the properties into open space or parks. The program covers 75% of the buyout funding, with the remaining 25% coming from state, local, and community funds. Homeowners receive the pre-flood fair market value of their properties, and the acquired land is then preserved as public open space, preventing any future development and reducing the potential for flood damage.

Why this matters: Floodplain buyouts serve as an important tool in managing flood risks and building more resilient communities across the United States. By removing homes from high-risk areas and converting the land into open space, the program helps to mitigate the devastating effects of flooding on individuals and communities.

While floodplain buyouts can help homeowners move out of harm's way and create open spaces that absorb floodwaters, the process can be controversial and time-consuming, often taking 2-5 years. Experts say that although buyouts can benefit homeowners, they can also lead to issues like blight and community fragmentation if not implemented properly. The buyouts are happening as the U.S. faces a housing shortage, raising questions about how to balance housing needs and climate change adaptation.

Andrea Jones, a homeowner who participated in a floodplain buyout, used the proceeds from selling her flood-prone home to purchase a new one outside the floodplain. However, her monthly mortgage has now doubled compared to her previous home. Despite the challenges, FEMA's floodplain buyout program continues to be a critical tool in reducing flood risks and helping communities adapt to the increasing threats posed by climate change.

Key Takeaways

  • FEMA has spent $4B to buy and demolish 45,000-50,000 flood-prone homes since 1989.
  • Buyout program covers 75% of costs, with 25% from state/local funds; homeowners get pre-flood value.
  • Buyouts convert properties to open space, reducing flood risks but can lead to blight and fragmentation.
  • Buyouts help homeowners move out of harm's way but may double monthly mortgage costs.
  • Buyout program is a critical tool for climate adaptation but faces challenges balancing housing needs.