People continue moving to Florida while Florida continues buying homes and property in vulnerable areas

JoAnn Ryan

Moving to Florida can be a risky endeavor for people desiring to relocate to oceanfront areas in the state. Here's why.
Remains of a Florida neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Big Pine KeyPhoto byJ.T. Blatty / FEMA

In 2018, in response to Hurricane Irma, Florida began the task of planning to buy property from owners in sections of the state hardest hit by the catastrophic storm. These are properties that suffered acute damage and excessive flooding.

Since then, several more devastating hurricanes, like Michael, Ian and Sally, have led to even more proposed home buyouts with the assistance of local, state and federal grant programs:

  • Earlier this month, meetings were held in Escambia County to discuss home buyouts in the panhandle as a result of damage from Hurricane Sally in September of 2020, nearly three years ago now.
  • Santa Rosa County, which is right next to Escambia County, recently applied for $5 million in federal grant money to facilitate home buyouts in that area, while Escambia applied for $3 million, according to this report by Sha'de Ray at WEAR Channel 3.
  • Home buyouts in the Panama City area as a result of damage from Hurricane Michael have been ongoing.
  • Recently it was announced that several homes in St. Johns County near Jacksonville were planning to be purchased from the owners in order to mitigate future risk and high costs but also associated with storm and flood damage resulting from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.
  • Martin County, just north of West Palm Beach, has been engaged in proposed home buyouts with an estimated cost of $9 million in federal funding.

This is not an exhaustive list. Home buyout proposals and programs are ongoing in other areas of the state, including The Florida Keys.
Mexico Beach, Florida after Hurricane MichaelPhoto byColin Hunt

These programs are notorious for often working at a snail's pace. As was recently highlighted in this documentary by VICE News, it can take years for home buyouts to go through. Plus, the buyout programs can face an uphill battle as more private buyers move in.

Yet, once the home purchases are successful, and the program has worked as planned, returning the land to a more or less natural state can seem like a true measure of success. Plus, it can prove to be a saving grace for some homeowners, like this success story from Bay County resident Keriss Cambria. She participated in the program and came out on the other side better and happier.

Florida isn't the only state participating in home buyout programs like these. Similar buyouts have been happening throughout the United States for decades in flood-prone areas such as along the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River.

The success of such programs have led to their increased popularity in mitigating the repeated high costs of recovery damage after floods and hurricanes.

Bottom line: future homeowners moving to Florida need to know what they are getting into when moving to the shore areas and weigh their options carefully. Yes, these areas are beautiful, but is it worth all the potential headache and cost?

Accounting for skyrocketing homeowner's insurance, and insurance companies leaving Florida, is yet another consideration for future Florida homebuyers.

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I love to write about things that fascinate people. Politically speaking, I'm proudly independent.

Orlando, FL

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