Buy Out or Build Back? A comparative assessment of approaches to employing public funding to vulnerable coastal properties in the Northeastern United States (Regional)

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/NERR14-2WH-NH
Inception Date: 
2014
Completion Date: 
2016

Participants:

Porter Hoagland Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Principal Investigator
John Duff University of Massachusetts - Boston Co-Principal Investigator
Di Jin Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Co-Principal Investigator
Hauke Kite-Powell Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Co-Principal Investigator

Students Involved:

Maya Becker Columbia University
Hannah Dean University of Massachusetts - Boston
Andrew Fallon Virginia Institue of Marine Science
Lisa Granquist Northeastern University
James Howard University of Maryland
Lauren Laskey University of Massachusetts - Boston
Jun Qiu China Institute for Marine Affairs
Objectives: 

• To carry out legal and economic research on the laws and policies of the Northeast coastal states and their local communities in order to help inform ongoing socio-economic assessments of options for disaster responses and mitigation programs.

• To examine currently available legal and fiscal/economic mechanisms.

• To evaluate zoning and other police power oriented regulatory measures in the states.

• To assess in a comparative manner condemnation laws and policies.

• To characterize the history and scope of inverse condemnation (“takings”) jurisprudence in the states.

• To undertake economic evaluations of the promise and prospects of alternative forms of build-backs or buy-outs.

• To elucidate the comparative costs and benefits associated with the implementation of public funding or regulatory efforts.

Methodology: 

We will undertake a contextual examination of currently available legal and fiscal/economic mechanisms relating to shoreline change, including flooding and erosion. We will improve and develop models and algorithms to estimate the economic consequences of alternative institutional approaches to build-backs and buy-outs in light of these natural hazards. Our methodological approach involves accomplishing the following tasks:

• Identify and characterize federal laws and policies relevant to decisions to retreat, mitigate or rebuild in the face of coastal hazards.

• Compare state and local climate impact planning, mitigation, and response policies, socio-economic factors, and environmental conditions.

• Classify extant state policies and legal mechanisms for encouraging coastal retreat.

• Examine constitutional provisions, judicial opinions, statutes, regulations and bylaws.

• Characterize a range of prospective policies for encouraging coastal retreat.

• Refine and adapt models of individual- and community-level decisions to protect coastal properties or to retreat from the coast.

• Develop estimates of the costs and benefits of existing and prospective institutions for coastal properties at risk.

• Carry out project reporting, publication, and outreach activities.

Rationale: 

Northeast coastal states and their local communities impose regulations and disburse public funds in response to the destructions caused by natural disasters, such as severe storms, coastal erosion and sea-level rise. However, anthropogenic responses to natural hazards, such as beach nourishment and armoring, can impose sizeable costs on adjacent properties, neighboring communities and future generations. In the shoreline change context, choices to achieve resilience and reduce vulnerability can be difficult, involving a wide array of extant and prospective policies. Although the kinds of coastal properties, the types of vulnerabilities, and the natural forces at play are remarkably similar across the region, local communities and coastal states exhibit much variability in their policy choices. Given varying effectiveness and costs, this diversity of policy approaches implies that some communities may have been tempted to satisfy parochial micro-motives at society’s expense through reductions in resilience to future hazards. For communities and states in the Northeast, it is now critical that an assessment be undertaken of the disaster response and mitigation policies currently in place. Further, these policies should be compared with other prospective policies that are potentially beneficial but presently underutilized.

Accomplishments: 

2015

Regional project assesses effects of shoreline change and protective structures on home values in the Northeast

Researchers funded by the Northeast Sea Grant Consortium found that homeowners pay a premium in housing markets for nearshore properties protected by nature (higher elevations or more stable shorelines) or by humans (seawalls).
Relevance: Coastal properties and the natural forces that make them vulnerable are similar across the Northeast U.S. region, but local communities and coastal states exhibit much variability in their policy choices. A critical assessment of policies currently being used is important for protection of coastal properties.
Response: The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium funded a project that will examine various legal and fiscal/economic mechanisms employed by coastal communities in the northeast to formulate and carry out disaster response and mitigation programs.
Results: Researchers completed an assessment of the effects of shoreline change and protective structures (seawalls) on home values, using data on residences sold between 2000 and 2010 in three Massachusetts coastal towns that comprise shorelines exhibiting moderate rates of shoreline change, with extensive armoring. The effects of hard structural protection in combination with environmental amenities and hazards were examined and results indicate homeowners pay a premium in housing markets for nearshore properties protected by nature (higher elevations or more stable shorelines) or by humans (seawalls). The effects of erosion, elevation, and seawalls appear to be limited to oceanfront residences or properties located in close proximity to water. Overall, the benefits of access to ocean amenities dominate the risks of exposures to hazards associated with shoreline change.

2013

Northeast Sea Grant Consortium supports regional socio-economic projects
During 2013, the Northeast Sea Grant Consortium issued a regional call for socio-economic proposals specifically in the areas of offshore energy utilization and coastal resiliency to impacts of climate change. For that solicitation, we received 30 pre-proposals. A pre-proposal review panel included all Northeast Sea Grant directors, in addition to representatives from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC). Nine pre-proposals were selected for full proposal development and from those proposals three were selected for support to begin in FY2014. The selected proposals are:

Johnston, Robert J., Moeltner, K., Blinn, C., and Feurt, C. (Clark University) Coastal hazards and Northeast housing values: comparative implications for climate change adaptation and community resilience. Amount awarded: Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

Hoagland, P., Duff, J., Jin, D., and Kite-Powell, H. (WHOI) Buy out or build back? A comparative assessment of approaches to employing public funding to vulnerable coastal properties in the Northeastern United States. Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

Grabowski, J.H. and Ruth, M. (Northeastern University) Social and ecological factors influencing shoreline hardening in the Northeast: Implications for vulnerability, resilience, and informed decision making. Amount awarded: Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

The first two projects were supported by Omnibus funds to the seven northeast sea Grant programs (Maine, N.H., MIT, WHOI, R.I., Conn., and N.Y.); the third project was supported by additional funds from the National Sea Grant Office allocated to each of these programs.