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Protection for the rich, retreat for the poor

Source(s):  Hakai Magazine

By Michael Allen


“We spend a tremendous amount of money—billions of dollars—to hold shorelines in place and provide storm damage protection to properties out on coastal resort communities,” says Robert Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. “This applies from Maine through Long Island, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida. The federal dollars that we spend in those places tend to be spent to protect the value of property.


This difference is driven, Siders says, by a US federal disaster policy that is focused on protecting assets and cost-effectiveness, rather than protecting populations. “You don’t build a [US] $1-million flood wall in front of a $100,000 home,” she explains. “And conversely, if I give you $1-million and say I want you to help as many families and acquire as much land as possible, you’re not going to purchase a $1-million home.”


The situation is complicated, Young says, because property buyouts can be a good solution for addressing the threats of climate change. But for the high-value, wealthy communities, he says, there is almost never a push for managed retreat or other solutions that could be cheaper for taxpayers in the long run.


While climate-minded modifications such as green roofs, climate change–proof parks, and tree-lined streets—designed to help cities prepare for extreme weather events—seem like a win-win for residents, in many areas these greening projects are changing social demographics and driving up house prices.


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  • Publication date 14 Oct 2020

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