Moving from Reactive to Proactive

Climigration involves transfers of property rights and changes in land use. These changes in ownership and management necessarily result in both financial burdens and opportunities.

Planned retreat faces a number of funding challenges, including:

  • Almost all existing funds are designated for post-disaster relief, rather than incentives for proactive planning and property transfers.
  • There are debates about how relocation should be funded -- public tax dollars, private funding, or some combination.
  • Climigration plans may involve the loss of taxable properties and the dismantling of tourism centers, both of which could compromise municipal or other community budgets.
  • Accounting for losses and gains is hard enough when the assets at stake are structures and land with calculable market values, but it is much more difficult to place value on the non-tangible aspects of living near the water.
  • Residents who are upside down in their mortgages may be unable to leave, even if they want to.
  • Equity and justice are major issues. Those with the fewest resources are the least likely to be able to relocate, and low-income communities that already suffer from under-investment are less likely to get the attention of funders for assistance.

Despite these challenges, there are already a number of funding mechanisms in place that communities can explore when considering climigration. In the U.S. these include:*

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides a percentage of disaster assistance funds for mitigation measures in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
  • FEMA's Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, which provides funding for measures that reduce the long-term risk of flood damage to buildings covered under the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • FEMA's Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, which provides grants to states and communities for cost-effective hazard mitigation.
  • Department of Housing and Human Development (HUD) 's Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which provide flexible funding for mostly low-income communities recovering from disasters. This money can be used for the acquisition of damaged properties.
  • State and local-led programs. For example, the New York Home Buyout Program is administered with CDBG funding, used to offer homeowners with properties damaged by Superstorm Sandy the option of selling their homes to the state for their pre-storm market value. These houses are then  demolished and maintained as coastal buffer zones adding storm protection to the community.  Through this program, the state bought back hundreds of homes in several Staten Island communities.
  • To acquire funds for retreat, communities might also explore establishing corporate entities (e.g., businesses or land trusts).

There is an enormous opportunity to share insights about creative efforts and innovative financing tools that work to shift dollars from recovery to preparation, planning, and managed retreat. We will update this site over time with some of those ideas.

*List attributed to: Siders, Anne R. Anatomy of a Buyout-- New York Post-Superstorm Sandy. Stanford University, 2013.