Government Plan to Protect Florida Keys Includes Buyouts
Some areas of Florida are more prone to hurricane damage than others. The Florida Keys, in particular, have been devastated by recent storms. And with sea levels rising, the government anticipates that the Keys could experience even more destruction.
The Miami Herald published a story summarizing a $5.5 billion plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Florida Keys from future storms. The plan involves elevating over 7,000 houses but also demolishing around 300 homes by buying them from the owners.
Are Mandatory Buyouts on the Books?
Buyouts are nothing new in Florida. Already, the state has a program in place to buy properties that are at risk of damage in a hurricane. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided $20 million to the Keys to buy homes that are vulnerable to future flooding.
However, the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan would require that local authorities use eminent domain to kick people out of their homes. Owners would still receive just compensation for the property, but they would have no choice whether they wanted to sell. Instead, the government would seize the property. Monroe County officials are balking at mandatory buyouts. They have requested that the Corps give a waiver, leaving any buyout as voluntary.
However, if buyouts are voluntary, then some homeowners might not sell, which defeats the purpose of the buyouts. The government buys homes in clusters so that they can shut off utilities and other services to that area. They also no longer need to provide roads. But if some homeowners can hold out, then the government does not save as much money.
Raising Homes on Stilts
The Corps’ draft plan also calls for lifting around 7,300 homes on stilts to protect them from storm surge. The stills would also protect against increased flooding as a result of rising sea levels.
Monroe County officials want all homes in danger to be raised on stilts. This includes the 300 homes that might be subject to eminent domain. However, the Corps believes that about 300 homes would still be vulnerable to storm surge even if raised 12 feet, which is why they want to destroy them instead.
The Florida Keys has already undertaken the expensive task of raising its roads. The area is expected to see about 2 feet of sea rise by 2060, which would end up swamping the Keys during high tide. In Monroe County as a whole, officials estimate that around 50% of its roads could flood at any given time.
Elevating land is expensive. Last year, Monroe County approached the state with its hand out for $150 million to help defray the cost of elevating buildings and floodproofing businesses and critical infrastructure, such as hospitals.
Our Team is Here to Help
All of coastal Florida is potentially vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surge in the coming decades. If your home has been damaged, contact Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. Our Daytona Beach hurricane insurance claims attorneys have negotiated with insurance providers to obtain payment for property damage claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.