Promoting equity in retreat through voluntary property buyout programs

Caroline M. Kraan, Miyuki Hino, Jennifer Niemann, A. R. Siders, Katharine J. Mach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voluntary property buyouts have been the most prevalent form of managed retreat in the USA to date. Tens of thousands of households have sold their flood-prone homes to the government, and after the structures are demolished, the land becomes open space. Concerns have been raised about the equity of buyout processes and outcomes, spanning distributive, procedural, and interactional dimensions of social justice. In this policy analysis, we first provide an overview of equity and justice issues in buyouts based on existing literature. We consider multiple relevant stakeholder groups: the communities in which buyouts occur, potential participants and relocating households, residents who choose to stay, and the destination communities. Second, we present policy options that may address and reduce existing social inequities in buyouts. Third, we outline how improved reporting on buyout programs by implementers can support buyout policy learning that will improve buyout outcomes and equity. Indicators can provide insight on who has access to buyouts, the effect of buyout implementation on outcomes, and the consequences of relocating—or not—for all affected. With increasing climate risks, voluntary property buyouts will remain an important means of reducing exposure to flooding and other hazards. For this method of retreat to occur effectively at greater scale, attention to social justice in program evaluation and policy learning is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-492
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Buyouts
  • Equity
  • Flood hazard mitigation
  • Managed retreat
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)


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