Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics

Document Type

Research Article


Flooding continues to be the most common and damaging of all natural disasters in the United States. In 2016, twelve individual weather and climate events caused more than $1billion in damages each. During 2016, the U.S. was hit by at least five once-in-1,000 years precipitation events, and severe floods resulted in more than $17 billion in damages. Currently, more than 5.5 million active policies under the National Flood Insurance Program, underwrite more than $1.6 trillion in assets. Since 1978, NFIP has paid out more than $38 billion in claims – nearly 30% was paid to the 1% of properties classified as “repetitive loss properties” (RLPs).

Flood impacts are determined by a complex interaction between physical hazards, the vulnerability of a society or social-ecological system, and its exposure to such hazards. The extent and severity of impacts are amplified by challenging socioeconomic dynamics, including poorly planned urban development, lack of access to resources, social vulnerability, and poverty.

Addressing this complex interaction between hazards, exposure and social vulnerability, this study identifies and prioritizes land in Florida, where multiple management benefits can be achieved: flood exposure reduction, habitats restoration, and social vulnerability remediation. In a targeted case-study, our model identified 144 RLPs in Miami-Dade County located in areas where high social vulnerability, high flood exposure, and natural habitats coexist. Collectively, these 144 RLPs filed at least 320 claims against NFIP between 1978 and 2011.

The multiple benefits of the presented approach include: reduction of flood exposure; reduction of NFIP’s financial impact; restoration of the floodplain to a more natural condition; and the identification of efficient application of federal funds. We argue that government funded buyouts, followed by structure demolition and/or relocation, and the restoration of floodplain habitats, can support social, environmental, and economic objectives, as long as such projects are executed in a thoughtful and fair manner.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.