Will The Government Require Federally-Funded Buildings to Meet Flood Standards?

In order to ensure we are adapting to climate change, E&E News reports that some experts are arguing that the incoming Biden Administration may want to put back in place a requirement that all buildings, infrastructure, and homes funded or backed with federal dollars be flood-proofed. President Trump rescinded this requirement before federal agencies put it into effect, according to Climatewire, but reviving the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard would reduce the risk that people and property will be in harm’s way given the increasing threat of climate change.  Real estate developers like the President himself, opposed the Obama rule — which only applied to the government-funded projects — because they said it increased the cost of housing and construction.  But that was before the nation spent billions rebuilding from the severe storms of the last few years.

Why This Matters:  Not being flood-proofed is just dumb and really costly in the long run. Yes, it costs more to elevate structures or move them out of the floodplain where they are vulnerable but the developer walks away and leaves the insurers, owners, and the government holding the bag.  And there is an upside.  New research from Johns Hopkins and the American Flood Coalition shows that robust public spending on flood mitigation creates tens of thousands of new jobs.  Win-win — build back better.

Flood Resilience — Building To Last

The Obama flood protection rule covered projects being built in flood-prone areas — both coastal and riverine flooding.  The types of projects covered by the policy were as broad as the government’s activities — from new military facilities to infrastructure to homes being rebuilt after a disaster to new homes backed by government mortgage insurance.  The policy required buildings to be elevated or have whatever necessary flood protection could be designed.  Gabe Maser, vice president of government relations at the International Code Council, told E&E News that putting the Obama policy back in place would protect infrastructure projects, which “have lifetimes spanning 50 to 75 years, or more. Locking in resilience across all hazards would help ensure these investments are built to last.” he added.

Flood Resilience — Job Creation

The fact that flood resistance construction protects people and saves money is well known.  As the Johns Hopkins study points out there is a great deal of research done by the National Institute of Building Sciences that “shows that every $1 spent on disaster mitigation saves $4 to $7 on the back end.”  But how many jobs those projects create had not been well delineated until now.  This study “calculates the number of jobs created through investment in flood infrastructure and investigates how flood-resilient projects bring additional benefits.”  The had four major takeaways:

  • “Investing in flood-resilient infrastructure creates jobs: JHU’s research finds that a $1 million increase in funding for flood infrastructure projects in a metropolitan statistical area is associated with an increase in 40 jobs…we estimate that 10 billion dollars invested could be associated with up to 400,000 new jobs across the country.”
  • “Investing in resilience helps create new businesses: An infusion of $1 million in funding for flood infrastructure is associated with an increase of 4 construction businesses in the year of the award.”
  • “Economic benefits of reducing flooding are local: Flood infrastructure stimulates economies close to home, providing business for local contractors…”
  • “Benefits extend far beyond flood reduction and include added recreational and green space: Many communities have invested in green infrastructure…as a way to reduce flooding and create green space for residents to enjoy…these amenities can increase property values, in addition to reducing flood risk.”

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