A federal housing buyout program intended to reduce flood risks is exacerbating housing segregation, a study published late last week in Environmental Research Letters reveals. “Any time a color-blind policy enters a racialized housing landscape, it’s going to be segmented,” Jim Elliott, a professor at Rice University and the lead author of the study, told Grist. For three decades, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has given billions of dollars to states and municipalities to buy and demolish flood-prone homes.
Homeowners in non-white-majority neighborhoods are more likely to take housing buyouts at lower flood risk levels, possibly because local governments spend more on flood control measures in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods. The study found white homeowners who take housing buyouts are essentially never moving into non-majority-white areas — essentially a new, climate-fueled iteration of “white flight.”
“If you’re approaching a majority-white neighborhood, and you want people to move, they’re going to move if and only if they can meet three conditions,” said Elliott. “They have to have housing somewhere nearby, they want to reduce their flood risk, and the close-by safer housing has to be in a majority-white area. They’re not going to sacrifice that.” (Grist, NPR, The Conversation)