Buy-In for Buyouts: 10 Years After Sandy, New York Considers New Funding for Voluntary Relocation

City Limits: As the 10-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches, increased frequency and intensity of storms has led to conversations about the future of New York City’s coastline communities—and whether some can remain habitable in the future.

New potential funding mechanisms—including a measure that New Yorkers will see on the ballot this November—may provide an opportunity for homeowners in areas of high flood risk to sell their at-risk properties to the state or city. The properties are then rebuilt to be more resilient, or removed so the land can be used for coastal protection measures.

Following Sandy, a swath of about 200 buyouts along the shore of Staten Island has resulted in a project by the Army Corps of Engineers to build a seawall and natural wetlands protecting several miles of the south coast of the island from a future storm surge. But challenges with the process remain: some people who opted for the buyout have moved into another flood zone, due to lack of transparency about risk and affordability issues. Also, most federal funding for such programs has historically been available only after a storm, leaving many low-income individuals as sitting ducks until the next disaster.

“We don’t have to wait for a storm to come and wash away someone’s house or flood someone’s house or damage their property to take action,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, the Nature Conservancy’s New York policy and strategy director. She emphasizes, however, that any such program would require community buy-in and that homeowners would need to feel confident that the decision is in their hands.

“This is voluntary,” she added. “No one’s going to say you need to leave your home, but for those property owners that are saying I need to get out of here, this is an avenue to relocation.”  Read more >>