NPR: Sweeping Study Raises Questions About Who Benefits From Buyouts Of Flood-Prone Homes

NPR, Oct. 9, 2019: Sweeping Study Raises Questions About Who Benefits From Buyouts Of Flood-Prone Homes

A broad analysis of federal records finds that homeowners hoping to relocate out of flood zones in the U.S. don’t have equal access to the main source of federal funding meant to help them.

The study looked at more than 40,000 records for flood-prone homes that have been purchased by local governments with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since the late 1980s. Such voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties are an important policy tool to move people out of harm’s way, especially as climate change drives sea level rise and more extreme rain in many parts of the U.S.

But homeowners can pursue a buyout only if their local government has set up the program through FEMA. This study found that not all flood-prone communities are able to do that.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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