Resilient Ecosystems

Selected

Buy-In Community Planning

Relocating residents of high hazard flood areas and enabling ecosystem restoration projects

Team Lead

Kelly Main

5 Comments
Burhan Jaffer

In response to How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

could you elaborate on who / what manages the restored wetlands / conservation and whether these are in the not-for-profit or for-profit realm or released into the federal/state pool of land management? Ultimately, would the solution entail a sovereign subsidy solution or can this be a market backed market place solution where an economic cycle is created (through public parks managed for conservation) that can pay for the rehabilitation of the communities? does the carbon offsets market help defray any of the costs?

KM KM Kelly Main

Land ownership and management will be contextual and depend on each location. Some municipalities may have existing conservation stakeholders (land trusts, nonprofits, for profits) that can support long term conservation efforts and assume ownership and management of bought out land; other bought out land may be incorporated into existing city parks systems with existing management revenue sources; and other land may be aggregated or sizeable enough and contiguous to provide sufficient co-benefits and returns (environmental, social, financial) to secure private investment and ownership. Funding this range of projects and ensuring proper stewardship will require a diverse set of partners and blended capital (both financed and funded). For example, land trusts and nonprofit conservation organizations may be able to acquire the land and turn it into an option agreement for fund investors to get a return to support long term stewardship. If private capital is used, it will require market rate returns which may be accessed through, for example, forest carbon and wetland carbon markets, or receive returns from local funding sources (storm water utility fees, environmental impact bonds, etc.). Carbon offsets and entering the carbon market may be viable for some projects and will depend on conserved land size, contiguity, which registry and its protocol, and the generated co-benefits to support it being economically viable.

Upfront, interim and ongoing capital funding from investors, states, and local jurisdictions and additional grants from foundations will most likely be required in various combinations to successfully support buyouts, relocation and affordable housing development, and end use restoration and conservation efforts. Buy-In is engaging with experts in forest and wetland carbon, environmental impact bonds, impact investing, conservation, federal and state grants, impact investing, affordable housing development, banking, and green infrastructure that have experience building and funding both small and large scale, multi-partner community, housing, conservation, and climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

Needless to say, these are the key elements we are hoping to pursue through our involvement in the SOLVE challenge!

Burhan Jaffer

In response to How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

could you elaborate on who / what manages the restored wetlands / conservation and whether these are in the not-for-profit or for-profit realm or released into the federal/state pool of land management? Ultimately, would the solution entail a sovereign subsidy solution or can this be a market backed market place solution where an economic cycle is created (through public parks managed for conservation) that can pay for the rehabilitation of the communities? does the carbon offsets market help defray any of the costs?

Burhan Jaffer

In response to If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:

This is a brilliant video, albeit on the longer side, but Kelly's articulation of the idea (starts at approx 13:53 and ends at 22:20) is gold. She lays out very clearly what the holistic solution is, approach, target audi ence and the way the this all comes together. Kudos to the team!! the sections from Kate, Sigurdur, Paola further help contextualize the solution, the urgency of why now and the scale of the problem.
The one thing I would like to see more of or some proof points is the economic quantification of siloed approaches and the true cost ($ and intangible) of inadequate restoration and restitution.

KM KM Kelly Main

Thank you for the comment and challenging question!

Comprehensively quantifying the range of economic outcomes resulting from siloed and short-sighted approaches to flood mitigation would require more research than has been conducted to date, but a large body of evidence supports the basic conclusion that current, siloed approaches fail to account for the long-term costs of failing to address flood risks. Current approaches that focus on encouraging residents to rebuild in areas of high flood exposure ad nauseam also leave potential benefits on the table (detailed below). Buy-In understands that buyouts are not just about hazard mitigation or real estate transactions - buyouts currently fail to maximize their potential because they sit at a nexus of interlocking crises including scarce and unaffordable housing, increasing climate risk, social and economic inequality, and ecological degradation. We hope to innovate in this space by finding comprehensive solutions that leverage public-private partnerships to tackle this massive challenge. Resources from SOLVE will help us invest in the research needed to make a stronger economic case for private sector involvement. We hope to change the framing from one simply of economic losses to one of value-creation through supportive relocation services for people, their financial assets, and the ecosystems that sustain us. A survey of some of the relevant analysis is outlined below.

Reducing Federal Fiscal Exposure: From the perspective of fiscal exposure of the U.S. government, disasters are becoming more and more costly due to a combination of increasingly destructive storms and asset exposure (https://www.noaa.gov/stories/record-number-of-billion-dollar-disasters-struck-us-in-2020) . The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published multiple studies on the continued fiscal exposure that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) faces despite its current hazard mitigation efforts. This is largely due to how the number of properties which have experienced repetitive losses (filed claims for flood insurance) continues to outpace the rate that FEMA is pursuing more permanent solutions like acquiring properties. As a result, the NFIP program is consistently insolvent ($20.5 billion in debt as of March 2020) despite Congress cancelling $16 billion of debt in 2017 (see GAO-20-508: Fiscal Exposure Persists Despite Property Acquisitions). A second Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2020 found that “A Climate Migration Pilot Program Could Enhance the Nation’s Resilience and Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure (GAO-20-488)”, paving the way for a more robust conversation at the federal level for enabling large-scale relocation away from the coastline. Our team is frequently in contact with GAO on this matter and are staying tuned for any congressional efforts to take action on implementing such a program.

Local benefits. Buyouts can have a range of potential fiscal impacts on municipalities. Buyouts can reduce future disaster-relief costs, create valuable open space, and reduce maintenance costs where urban infrastructure can be permanently removed. Conversely, buyouts can reduce property tax revenues if participants are unable or do not want to relocate locally, and saddle municipalities or other entities with the cost of maintaining green space and other amenities created on buyout properties after the home has been demolished. This is an area of further research our team hopes to engage in.

Benefits for neighbors: What is the value of green space to the homeowner that lives next door? That is a question researchers have studied for decades and their answers have been largely positive. That is, if you live near a city park or a state forest, holding all else constant, your house is worth more money than if you lived miles from that same city park or state forest. Hedonic home price analyses reveal some variation in the value created based on neighborhood characteristics and the quality of the green space. This reveals that local governments failing to utilize buyouts as an opportunity to remove blight (i.e., abandoned homes) and create high-quality green space may depress property values.

Participant benefits: A recent study by Koslov et al [When rebuilding no longer means recovery: the stress of staying put after Hurricane Sandy (2021)] utilizing Post-Sandy survey data shows that households that participated in voluntary relocation experienced decreased stress as compared to residents who chose to rebuild in the same location. Stress caused by the threat of and impacts from repetitive flooding has acute psycho-social and emotional impacts on households. These detrimental health impacts are demonstrable and quantifiable. The stresses of staying in place are increased by the rising cost of flood insurance and the challenge of obtaining aid to rebuild. The longer-term financial impacts of disasters like flooding for residents are also becoming clear. When the Urban Institute compared the financial health of residents in disaster-affected communities (defined by zip code) to otherwise similar people in unaffected areas, they found disasters lead to broad, and often substantial, negative impacts on financial health which persist, or even grow over time, for important financial outcomes such as credit score and debt in collections. This study (https://www.noaa.gov/stories/record-number-of-billion-dollar-disasters-struck-us-in-2020) found that individuals and communities more likely to be struggling financially before disasters strike are often the hardest hit by the disaster. Thus, it is important to integrate buyouts with other social and legal support services for those in debt or conditions of poverty, who are likely to be sent into a downward financial spiral if future disasters were to occur.

Conservation benefits: An EPA resource (https://www.noaa.gov/stories/record-number-of-billion-dollar-disasters-struck-us-in-2020) highlights the economic benefits of wetlands including improving water quality(including drinking water), flood control, fisheries, recreation, and wildlife habitat, to name a few. NOAA Fisheries estimates that coastal estuaries generate half of commercially harvested seafood in the United States, supporting 1.74 million jobs and 244.1 billion in sales in 2017. Coastal wetlands also play an important role in addressing climate change by sequestering blue carbon. Despite their importance, we lose an estimated 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year to development, drainage, erosion, subsidence and sea level rise. (https://www.noaa.gov/stories/record-number-of-billion-dollar-disasters-struck-us-in-2020) These trends are only likely to increase as climate impacts intensify.

Parks & Open Space: A Trust for Public Land study of the economic value of parks and recreational amenities in Beaufort County, SC found that parks, trails, and conserved open spaces in Beaufort County “enhance property values, infiltrate stormwater, improve air quality, attract visitors to the county, provide recreational opportunities for residents, improve human health, boost economic development, and bolster the farming and defense industries. These amenities support local jobs, increase spending at local businesses, save residents money, and generate local tax revenue.” These include increase home values by a total of $127 million per year and increased property tax revenues by $1.12 million a year (see Table 2 ); stormwater infiltration valued at a total of $27.4 million annually, $8.10 million of which is generated by Rural and Critical Lands (RCL); health benefits and reduced pollution control costs by a total of $317,000 per year, $72,900 of which is generated by RCL; and tourism revenues of $116 million annually, including $3.46 million in local tax revenues.

 
    Back
to Top