As many as 41 million Americans are at risk of flooding, with an estimated 13 million affected by sea level rise. Traditional climate adaptation strategies include hard infrastructure like seawalls, dykes, and levees that are destroying precious coastal ecosystems, a phenomenon known as coastal squeeze. Coastal squeeze is defined as intertidal habitat loss which arises due to the high water mark being fixed by a defense and the low water mark migrating landwards in response to sea level rise. The loss of intertidal habitat is threatening numerous species, including but not limited to migratory birds. Other hazard mitigation strategies such as beach nourishment cost millions of dollars and dredge sand from areas, disrupting deepwater ecosystems. coastal armoring prevents natural processes of sedimentation and lead to erosion challenges further down the coast. A lack of dedicated resources to helping people move away from rising seas not only directly threatens coastal ecosystems by preventing their inland migration, but feeds the destructive narrative that we must defend or protect ourselves from encroaching water rather than learning to work with it. All of these circumstances exacerbate existing coastal conservation challenges like preserving sea turtle nesting habitat, which are only going to become more difficult as climate change impacts increase.
Buy-In uses the power of geospatial data tools to match coastal neighborhoods with high conservation potential with conservation financing organizations to transform hazardous real estate into invaluable conservation assets. We are creating a Suitability Index to inform our outreach strategy by cross-referencing NFIP Claims and Policy data, FEMA National Flood Hazard Layers, U.S. Census data, and conservation portfolio data from organizations like The Nature Conservancy. Next, we use human-centered design principles that combine online and in-person engagement strategies to make connections with homeowners and community leaders. We tap into local social networks to validate our database and gather information about which homeowners want to leave and under what circumstances. In these conversations, we demystify the process of selling a risky property and empower vulnerable neighborhoods to have more control over their decision to relocate. We fill the critical gap in federal funding matching requirements by diversifying the number of stakeholders who can buy-in to the buyout process. We are building a portfolio of investors whose mission is to create open spaces like conservation land, recreational trails, and public parks, and matchmaking them with homeowners who want to sell. This strategy creates win-win scenarios in diverse communities across the country, in both rural and urban contexts.
1. People live in flood-prone areas that will only get worse due to climate change
2. People want to move out of high-hazard areas
3. Public funding is necessary but not sufficient for the future demand of buyouts
4. Conservation agencies have a vital role to play in the buyout arena
5. Geospatial data tools can help us understand synergies between hazard-prone areas and conservation opportunities
6. Restored habitat near residential neighborhoods benefits humans and non-humans too
Traditionally, coastal real estate values have prevented any significant action towards property relocation. However, numerous studies have shown that real estate properties in areas affected by nuisance or disaster-induced flooding are depreciating at a higher rate then other properties near by. As of now, publicly-funded post-disaster buyout programs are necessary nut not sufficient for addressing the demand for buyouts. There are at least thousands of households that want buyouts but who are not eligible under federal programs because of existing bureaucracy or their ineligibility under federal programs. We provide a private-sector solution which leverages conservation interests to help homeowners move out of harms way and ensure that no flood-prone real estate can be converted into residential or commercial properties.
We are in the process of building our online web platform where homeowners who are interested in voluntary buyouts can sign up to express their interest. We are also actively having conversations with conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy to identify partners who are interested in buyouts. We have hired a non-profit lawyer to help us incorporate but we currently still need to develop our online presence through feedback with pilot partners.
We currently need financial resources, front end web and database development expertise, and help determining how to structure our property acquisition process.