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What Do We Do with the Land Left Behind?

XSP for Floodplain Buyout Parcels

Kelly Leilani Main, Risa Hiser, Victoria Woods, Osamu Kumasaka, Maggie Tsang, and Isaac Stein

August 2022, English

Flood risk is increasing across the country due to extreme precipitation, outdated infrastructure, poor development practices, and climate change. As climate impacts like storm surge and sea level rise intensify risks, some communities are considering voluntary property acquisition programs (buyouts) as part of their adaptation and resilience strategies. Buyouts have been used for decades as a way to permanently mitigate flood hazard, but existing programs are full of problems such as inequitable outcomes, long wait times, and burdensome management practices for acquired parcels. Uncertainty about participation rates, funding sources, and the contiguity of participating properties makes planning for effective adaptive reuse especially challenging. Small municipalities with limited capacity struggle to overcome the technical challenges of applying for federal flood mitigation grants, implementing buyouts, supporting participating households as they relocate, and tending to the open space which buyouts create. To date, the ability of such governments to integrate buyout programs into comprehensive and long-range planning for housing, the environment, land use, or capital improvements remains elusive. Since exploratory scenario planning is a useful tool for managing uncertainty, this research project set out to explore what the key scenario planning considerations for buyout program managers could be. This paper will provide an overview of the role of buyouts in permanent flood mitigation, the key drivers for buyout planning, certainties and uncertainties in land use planning, and a conceptual design outcome for one identified scenario (a stormwater pocket park), using Long Island as a case study site intervention.


Adaptation, Environment, Environmental Planning, Floodplains, GIS, Land Use, Land Use Planning, Natural Resources, Open Space, Resilience, Reuse of Urban Land, Scenario Planning, Water