Working Papers

The Effects of Flood Buyouts and Green Infrastructure on Nearby Property Values

Ryun Jung Lee, Wayne Day, Alexander Abuabara, Galen Newman, and Walter Peacock

August 2023, English

Property buyouts have been widely implemented as a hazard mitigation strategy to relocate residents to a safer location and reduce potential flood damages. Green infrastructure is an established stormwater management tool that can help detain and filter stormwater runoff and lower any heat island effects through rich vegetation and permeable land surface. Examining the single-family residential properties in Harris County, situated in the broader Houston Metropolitan area, our research goal is to identify the effects of flood buyout activity and tree canopy coverage on nearby tax-assessed property values. To answer the question, we measure and disentangle the effects of buyout activity with respect to the potential: (1) negative effects of buyouts on nearby single-family property values due to the signaling of future hazard risks and neighborhood depopulation and disinvestment; and (2) increased resiliency of property values to nearby flood damages facilitated through green infrastructure. Assessor property data was downloaded from the Harris County Appraisal District and historical buyout information was obtained from the Harris County Flood Control. We also use tree canopy coverage as a primary measure for green infrastructure, which was obtained through EarthDefine LLC. Through a series of panel regression models, our findings suggest that nearby buyout activities, particularly those that are seen in close proximity to the property, may result in a loss of the municipal tax base. At the same time, it is also evident that a property bought out within the past year actually contributes to a higher property value. Tree canopy coverage could potentially mitigate the negative effect of buyout activities on property values. This study points to the possibility of a reduction in the local tax base as a result of the low maintenance of flood buyout properties in Harris County, Texas. While it may be inevitable to move forward with a buyout program, we want to stress the importance of post-buyout maintenance of the properties.


Floodplains, Infrastructure, Resilience, Valuation