A study published by the journal of Science Advances on Wednesday found that buyouts are often concentrated in wealthier counties.
“For government-funded retreat in the form of buyouts, our results indicate that richer, more densely populated areas have been more likely to implement voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties to date,” the study concluded.
These counties typically had higher income, education, population and population density when compared to those without buyouts.
One of the reasons given to explain that fact is that it may require substantial resources and capacity to navigate the FEMA buyout process. Researchers also say the presence of city planners, in addition to perceptions of climate risk and political will, may also play a role.
That could mean, however, people who need assistance the most are not receiving it.
The benefits that result from buyouts are not necessarily monetary. In fact, the resulting open space may provide even greater benefits to urban areas for use in recreation or community revitalization, researchers said.
Grant applications to FEMA are submitted via states, territories, or federally recognized tribes and buyouts are typically administered by local governments.
Within the counties receiving buyouts, they tended to be used in poorer, less-densely populated areas. It was not clear exactly why this was the case.
The six states with the most bought-out properties were in the top 10 states for cumulative flood-related property damage: Missouri, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Iowa and New Jersey.
The study analyzed about 40,000 voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties from 1989 to 2017. The average time it took to complete a buyout was more than five years.