Buyouts with rentbacks: a policy proposal for managing coastal retreat
The discussion of adaptation to climate change in coastal areas has focused on short-term risk reduction and climate-proofing, but there is growing recognition that—at some point in the future—relocation to less vulnerable geographical areas will become necessary for large numbers of residents in many coastal communities. Spontaneous relocations that occur after catastrophic events can entail high costs, both for those who resettle elsewhere and for the remaining community. Managed retreat attempts to reduce such costs, thereby facilitating the relocation process. Property buyouts, the most prominently discussed policy tool for managed retreat, present significant challenges in terms of equity, timing, finance, and scale. We discuss innovation in buyout policy that allows residents to remain in their homes as renters after being bought out. We develop the basic structure of such a policy and show the pathways through which it can help to finance buyouts, harmonize public and private decision-making, and manage the timing of community transition. We also recommend funding mechanisms and other details to overcome the substantial barriers to implementation. Although buyouts with rentbacks will require institutional innovation in order to serve as an effective policy framework, the policy has the potential to improve social, economic, and environmental outcomes from the eventual unfortunate but necessary migration away from coastal areas.
Keeler, AG; Mullin, M; McNamara, DE; Smith, MD
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