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ULI Releases Report on Floodplain Buyouts

Photo courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services

Washington – A new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) explores how floodplain buyouts can be a cost-effective land use tool to mitigate damage from rising water levels and get people out of harm’s way, but require long-term strategies to offer community benefits.

According to the report, entitled On Safer Ground: Floodplain Buyouts and Community Resilience, local governments across the United States are increasingly turning to buyouts as one strategy to cost effectively reduce flood risk, offer relief to residents, and potentially improve access to open space in urban areas. The report explores how changing rainfall patterns, stronger storms, and sea-level rise are increasing the flood risk and costly damage to property and infrastructure.

A floodplain buyout is a property acquisition in which a government agency purchases private property, demolishes any structures on it, and preserves the land as open space, as an area that absorbs excess water, or for both purposes. The report looks at the best practices and models for implementing floodplain buyouts, including engaging with communities equitably; seeking perennial and sustainable funding streams to work with homeowners on sensible, compassionate buyout plans; and leveraging the buyouts for enhanced open space.

The report also highlights how governments can address the disproportionate impact of floods on people of color and low-income communities. For instance, pairing relocation services with buyouts may help low-income families move to a safer area. It also provides examples of communities that have successfully implemented floodplain buyouts and leveraged purchased sites for open space or other community amenities. With nine case studies, the report features changes New Jersey made in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and Charleston, S.C.’s recovery after a 1,000-year flood in 2015.

To view the report, visit