Relocating People From Hurricane-Prone Flood Zones: A Solution
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.
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:
- Rebuilding will not be in vain.
- 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:
- 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. 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.
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.
About the Homestead Act:
© 2013 Glenn Stok