A Plan for the Government to Relocate People From Flood Zones
Why did people decide to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina caused so much flooding damage in Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005?
Why did the people in the low lying areas of Austin, Texas, rebuild after Hurricane Jose struck in 2017? They all know their towns are destined to get flooded again.
How often will people living flood-zones going to endure having their lives disrupted by repeated natural disasters? Why stay in an area where people continuously lose their properties due to storms. They rebuild, then their home gets destroyed all over again years later.
I would think it's best to move away from dangerous areas. It would be a cost-savings to taxpayers if the government would relocate these families at a one-time expense rather than funding continued disaster relief and rebuilding. I'll describe below how this can be done.
Why Do People Rebuild Where Disaster Will Strike Again?
People should not rebuild in areas that are below sea level. The government should not allow homes in those areas once they are wiped out by storm flooding.
Even new homeowners purchase property in areas that were once wiped out by storms. They are clueless and move into an area where they are destined to live a nightmare because they didn't know the situation when they moved in.1
Insurance companies pay to rebuild, and another storm comes along. The process starts all over again. Meanwhile, lives are disrupted and even lost.
Why do people want to put up with this? I realize there are at least two reasons:
- They know their neighbors and have a social connection that they don't want to lose.
- They grew up in these places and feel it is home.
I do recognize the importance of both of these reasons. However, the fact remains that these people suffer each time a storm destroys their home and livelihood.
With that said, I propose a solution that not only gives people an alternative option but also helps rebuild safer locations around the country that are presently run-down economically. A plan to relocate people away from flood zones rather than allow rebuilding.
It may not be easy to accept this plan, but in the long run, the people involved will have a brighter and more stable future.
Imagine if the government would take these homes off the hands of the people and relocate them to other areas, then turn the flood-prone neighborhoods into a wildlife refuge.
A Real Estate Solution With Positive Results
There was a time when the government gave land-property to citizens in return for living on it and maintaining the land. It's known as the Homestead Act, which was enacted in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln.2
Homesteading has continued in remote parts of Alaska until 1986, but the locations involved are so remote that you need a dog sled to get to those places.
Beatrice, a small plains city in Nebraska, also offered free land in 2010 based on the Homestead Act to increase its tax rolls. However, this is flood-prone land and not a good example for the plan I’m about to discuss.
The problem I propose to solve is to use the Homestead Act as a solution for people who continuously lose property in places like New Orleans, which is below sea level.
My idea is to move these people away from flood zones to new locations under the Homestead Act—areas that are conducive to having an enjoyable lifestyle.
Applying the Homestead Act to relocate victims of flood zones can improve run-down neighborhoods and revitalize deteriorating local economies by increasing its tax rolls. Detroit, Michigan comes to mind.
At the same time, this would eliminate the need to rebuild after a storm in an area where damage will most likely occur again.
Always throwing money into rebuilding in areas where the newly built homes have a good chance of being wiped out again is pointless. It’s an ongoing waste of resources.
The same money spent in new areas can achieve growth, while the fear of storm damage is minimal. Two positive results can occur:
- Rebuilding will not be in vain.
- Rejuvenate a depressed area of the country.
Claiming Homestead Land Is Not a Simple Matter
If one wishes to claim land that the government is giving away, they have to agree to construct a home or rehab an existing home if it passes inspection. They have to acquire building permits, and they have to live in the home for a minimum required period—usually three years.
Even though this sounds like too much work, it is just the thing people already have to do when a storm destroys their home in a flood zone.
How Would People Be Relocated?
There are communities scattered all around the United States that are depressed, such as Detroit, Michigan.
One can purchase a three-bedroom home for $5,000 in Detroit, but you wouldn't want to live there under the present conditions. These homes need to be either renovated or torn down—and crime is rampant.
However, the government can rejuvenate areas like this in a short time by moving entire neighborhoods all at once. A lot of the crime is due to vacant and abandoned properties, but those would become safe and secure communities once people live there who are actively enjoying social activities.
Also, if entire neighborhoods relocate in a group, then people can end up with the same neighbors if they wish.
Relocation and Conversion to Wildlife Refuge
There are many advantages as a result of this type of plan.
With proper planning, I think it would be less costly for the government to buy the property in the new location where it's cheap, and give it to the people in return for their property that was destroyed in a flood zone. Imagine if this were done for the people in Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes in 2005.
Businesses could also be given tax credits to relocate so new jobs in the new area will be available. Those tax credit came back in the form of real estate tax revenue and income tax from local employment.
Insurance companies would also save in the long run because they would no longer have repeated losses. It would benefit them to apply the payments for insured damages to rebuilding in the new location instead. That would be an added incentive to accept the Homestead offers.
Finally, the old location can be converted into a wildlife refuge with federal funds. That is a one-time investment since there would be no concern for damage from future storms.
My idea to relocate people from storm-damaged areas and provide new land in new locations to rebuild under the Homestead Act can create the opportunity to rebuild run-down communities as well as create new jobs and a better life.
The increased tax revenue in the new location that comes from the additional people who are employed can go towards the government's purchase of the damaged property in the flood-ravaged area.
At the same time, it eliminates loss of property and financial costs that would be the result of another storm that would otherwise wipe them out again. That's not going to happen anymore once this plan is carried out.
- Laura Kusisto. (December 17, 2017). "A Home Buyer’s Nightmare: Moving to a Flood Zone Without Knowing It." Wall Street Journal
- National Park Service. (October 24, 2018). "About the Homestead Act." nps.gov
© 2013 Glenn Stok