After the Buyouts: Managing Land in the Floodplain

Zoning Practice — April 2021

By James Schwab, FAICP


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Over the past 30 years, it has become increasingly common for states and communities to buy out flood-damaged properties from homeowners anxious to exit flood-prone lands. Occasionally, other disasters also lead to buyouts in vulnerable areas. The aim is typically to reduce flood losses in the future, making communities more resilient, by shifting development to less vulnerable locations. But once local government acquires those properties, what happens next? The community has presumably acquired new obligations with fewer property taxes to support them. What land-use and management strategies work best to preserve the intended benefits of taking such action?

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses legal and financial support for disaster-related land acquisitions, addresses local regulatory tools to manage pre and post-disaster land acquisitions, and outlines broader mitigation strategies and alternative uses that may provide environmental,recreational, and fiscal benefits to the community. 


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2021
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American Planning Association

About the Author

James Schwab, FAICP
Jim Schwab earned MAs in Urban and Regional Planning and Journalism from the University of Iowa. From 1985-1990, he was assistant editor of Planning, then moved to the APA Research Department as senior research associate. From 2007-2017, he served as manager of the APA Hazards Planning Center. Since leaving APA on May 31, 2017, he has been principal of Jim Schwab Consulting LLC, as well as an author, speaker, and continuing his role since 2008 as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Iowa. He is an accomplished author and has been responsible in whole or in part for 11 different PAS Reports. In 2016, in recognition of his "pivotal role" in helping create the new subfield of hazards planning, he was inducted into FAICP. Two years later, the Association of State Floodplain Managers awarded him its highest honor, the Goddard-White Award, in recognizing his national impact on the field of floodplain management. He is currently immediate past chair of the Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division and leading an effort to create a documentary film about the role of planning in helping communities address natural disasters and climate change.