Relocating People From Hurricane-Prone Flood Zones: A Solution

Updated on October 30, 2017
Glenn Stok profile image

Mr. Stok shares his unique assessment of the many social and economic concerns in our society. His viewpoints may inspire further thought.

People decided to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina caused much flooding damage in Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005. The same is true for people in low lying areas of Austin, Texas, after Hurricane Jose struck in 2017.

How often are they going to endure having their lives disrupted by a natural disaster?

I can think of a solution. There was a time when land was given to citizens in return for living on, and maintaining, the land. It's known as the Homestead Act, which was enacted in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln.

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. But this is flood-prone land and not subject to my proposal 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, locations that are conducive to having an enjoyable lifestyle.

Cars flooded on the New Orleans streets
Cars flooded on the New Orleans streets | Source

Claiming Homestead Land is Not a Simple Matter

A lot of work is involved if one wishes to claim land that the government is giving away. One has to agree to constructing a home, or rehabbing an existing home if it passes inspection. They have to acquire building permits. And they have to live in it for a minimum required period. Usually three years.

Despite the fact that this sounds like too much work, it actually is just the thing that people already are doing when their home is destroyed from a storm in a flood zone.

A Real Estate Solution with Positive Results

Applying the Homestead Act to relocate victims of flood zones can improve rundown 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.

Constantly 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 can be put to better use in a new area where positive results can be achieved. Two positive results can occur:

  1. Rebuilding will not be in vain.
  2. Rejuvenate a depressed area of the country.

Why stay in an area where people continuously lose their properties due to storms. They rebuild, and then lose it all over again years later.


Areas that are below sea level should not be rebuilt repeatedly. The government should not allow homes in those areas once they are wiped out by storm flooding.

Insurance companies pay to rebuild, and another storm comes along. And 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:

  1. They know their neighbors and have a social connection that they don't want to lose.
  2. They grew up in these places and feel it is home.

I do recognize the importance of both of these reasons. But the fact remains that these people suffer each time a storm destroys their home and livelihood.

With that said, I propose an extreme 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.


Where and How Would People be Relocated?

There are communities scattered all around the United States that are depressed, such as Detroit, Michigan.

A three-bedroom home can be purchased for $5000 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, areas like this can magically be rejuvenated in a short time period by moving entire neighborhoods all at once. A lot of the crime is due to vacant and abandoned properties. This would be replaced with total security once entire neighborhoods are once again filled with people actively enjoying social activities.

If entire neighborhoods are relocated in a group, then people can end up with the same neighbors, if they wish.

Relocation and Conversion to Wildlife Refuge

There are a lot of advantages that can result from this type of plan.

With a little planning, I think it would be less costly for the government to buy the property in the new location where it's cheap anyway, and give it to the people in return for their property that was destroyed in a flood zone.

Imagine if this was 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. This would be an added incentive to accept the Homestead offer.

Finally, the old location can be converted into a wildlife refuge with federal funds. This is a one-time investment since there would be no concern for damage from future storms.

Homestead Act Document
Homestead Act Document | Source


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 being employed, can go towards the government's purchase of the damaged property in the flood-ravaged location.

At the same time it eliminates loss of property and financial costs if another storm should wipe them out again.

© 2013 Glenn Stok


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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      13 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Anne Ryefield - There is definitely more to consider and it’s good to include the other side of the debate that you provided.

      Detroit is so run down that there are miles and miles of abandoned houses. But as you brought up for consideration, more families may need to be moved than all of Detroit, or other run-down communities, can accept.

      None of these things are easy. If nothing else, it would have to be done on a very controlled basis—allowing for a slow and steady incline as you had mentioned.

      As for what’s left behind, you brought up another important point. Conversion to nature refuge lands, if wide spread, may not leave enough tax paying residents to warrant the effort.

      I simply began the discussion with this article and I welcome more input such as yours.

    • Anne Ryefield profile image

      Anne Ryefield 

      13 months ago from USA

      I'm afraid I feel this is an impractical solution, a castle in the sky. Unfortunately there are far too many factors involved. Hurricane Katrina affected 90,000 square miles. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. That's bigger than the size of Louisiana alone. Relocating all of Louisiana (all counties experienced damage), would effectively kill Louisiana as a state. The same goes for Mississippi. If these states were converted into wild life refuges, then there would be no economy, government, income, or anything every state depends on. Sadly, I don't see the government agreeing to such a plan. It would completely restructure our government, much like adding a new state to the union would.

      While it would boost local depressed economies, it may also boom these economies beyond livability. Take Colorado, my home state, for example. Because the economy is booming, the majority of people who have lived here for decades are no longer able to afford to live here. I'm one of them, honestly. A two bedroom apartment is almost $2000 a month. Relocating thousands of people into areas like Detroit could be more detrimental than helpful in the long run. I feel a sudden burst of economy is much worse than a slow and steady incline. Moving entire neighborhoods into a new area would be a sudden burst.

      There are other things that would be affected but I think these two points are enough for now. It's a good idea on paper, but when put into action, I feel it's just not feasible.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Tod Zechiel - Thank you for including your knowledge of the Homesetad Act in these comments. The fact that you worked with homesteaded families adds valuable authoritative information to this discussion. Yes, homesteading requires one to work the land to acquire ownership title and that may motivate people to take better care of their property in my opinion.

    • Tod Zechiel profile image

      Tod Zechiel 

      2 years ago from Florida, United States

      Well, you certainly are thinking outside of the box. I used to work for the Bureau of Land Management. I worked with families who homesteaded under the Homestead Act. They had pride of ownership of their property for two or more generations. Thing was, they had to work to get the title and this factored into the generational pride. Somehow that would have to factor into the property transfer.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Hawaiian Scribe - Your comments are very true Stephanie. We just don't have the right people in political office to do the right things. They have their own agendas despite the fact that we are the ones voting for them.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 

      4 years ago from Hawai'i

      Thanks for your thoughtful solution to an ongoing problem. Unfortunately, this would entail an act of Congress and as the saying goes, "Congress doesnʻt act." Also, with todayʻs media circus environment, any large-scale solution would be demonized in the press before it ever got a fair hearing. Too bad we donʻt have sensible people like you in office. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MsDora - I can appreciate that it's not an acceptable solution for some. Many people tend to feel a strong attachment to communities where they spent their entire life, even if mother nature constantly uproots the foundation of their wellbeing. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      I agree that some residential areas should not have been allowed where they are. Moving them seems like a great idea, and would solve the problems. I suppose it can be done, but I have the feeling that solving problems is not a big part of this culture. Good presentation, though.


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