Relocating People from Flood Zones with the Homestead Act

There was a time when land was given to citizens in return for living on and maintaining the land. It's known as the Homestead Act, which was enacted in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln.

Homesteading has continued in remote parts of Alaska until 1986, but the locations involved are so remote that you need a dog sled to get to those places.

Beatrice, a small plains city in Nebraska, also offered free land in 2010 based on the Homestead Act to increase its tax rolls. But this is flood-prone land and not subject to my proposal I’m about to discuss.

The problem I intend to solve is to use the Homestead Act as a solution for people who continuously lose property in places like New Orleans, which is below sea level. My idea is to move these people away from flood zones to new locations under the Homestead Act.


Claiming Homestead Land is Not a Simple Matter

A lot of work is involved if one wishes to claim land that the government is giving away. One has to agree to constructing a home, or rehabbing an existing home if it passes inspection. They have to acquire building permits. And they have to live in it for a minimum required period. Usually three years.

Despite the fact that this sounds like too much work, it actually is just the thing that people already are doing when their home is destroyed from a storm in a flood zone.

A Real Estate Solution with Positive Results

Applying the Homestead Act to relocate victims of flood zones can improve rundown local economies by increasing its tax rolls. At the same time, this would eliminate the need to rebuild after a storm in an area where damage will most likely occur again.

Constantly throwing money into rebuilding in areas where the newly built homes have a good chance of being wiped out again is pointless. It’s an ongoing waste of resources.

The same money can be put to better use in a new area where positive results can be achieved. Two positive results can occur:

  1. Rebuilding will not be in vain.
  2. Rejuvenate a depressed area of the country.

Why stay in an area where people continuously lose their properties due to storms. They rebuild, and then lose it all over again years later.

Cars flooded on the New Orleans streets
Cars flooded on the New Orleans streets | Source

Areas that are below sea level should not be rebuilt repeatedly. The government should not allow homes in those areas once they are wiped out by storm flooding.

Insurance companies pay to rebuild, and another storm comes along. And the process starts all over again. Meanwhile, lives are disrupted, and even lost.

Why do people want to put up with this? I realize there are at least two reasons:

  1. They know their neighbors and have a social connection that they don't want to lose.

  2. They grew up in these places and feel it is home.

I do recognize the importance of both of these reasons. But the fact remains that these people suffer each time a storm destroys their home and livelihood.

So I propose an extreme and profound solution -- A plan to relocate people away from flood zones rather than allow rebuilding.

It may not be easy to accept this plan, but in the long run the people involved will have a brighter and more stable future.

Imagine if the government would take these homes off the hands of the people and relocate them to other areas. Then turn the flood-prone neighborhoods into a wildlife refuge.


Where and How Would People be Relocated?

There are communities scattered all around the United States that are depressed, such as Detroit, Michigan.

A three-bedroom home can be purchased for $5000 in Detroit. But you wouldn't want to live there under the present conditions. These homes need to be either renovated or torn down. And crime is rampant.

However, areas like this can magically be rejuvenated in a short time period by moving entire neighborhoods all at once. A lot of the crime is due to vacant and abandoned properties. This would be replaced with total security once entire neighborhoods are once again filled with people actively enjoying social activities.

If entire neighborhoods are relocated in a group, then people can end up with the same neighbors, if they wish.

A Profound Idea with Several Positive Results

There are a lot of advantages that can be acquired from this type of plan. I realize this was a profound idea.

But with a little planning, I think it would be less costly for the government to buy the property in the new location where it's cheap anyway, and give it to the people in return for their property that was destroyed in a flood zone.

Imagine if this was done for the people of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes in 2005?

Businesses could also be given tax credits to relocate so new jobs in the new area will be available. Those tax credit came back in the form of real estate tax revenue and income tax from local employment.

Insurance companies would also save in the long run because they would no longer have repeated losses. It would benefit them to apply the payments for insured damages to rebuilding in the new location instead. This would be an added incentive to accept the Homestead offer.

Finally, the old location can be converted into a wildlife refuge with federal funds. This is a one-time investment since there would be no concern for damage from future storms.

Homestead Act Document
Homestead Act Document | Source

End Result

My idea to relocate people from storm-damaged areas and provide new land in new locations to rebuild under the Homestead Act can create the opportunity to rebuild run-down communities as well as create new jobs and a better life.

While at the same time it offers relief from worry that the next storm will wipe them out again.

© 2013 Glenn Stok

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MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I agree that some residential areas should not have been allowed where they are. Moving them seems like a great idea, and would solve the problems. I suppose it can be done, but I have the feeling that solving problems is not a big part of this culture. Good presentation, though.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

MsDora - I can appreciate that it's not an acceptable solution for some. Many people tend to feel a strong attachment to communities where they spent their entire life, even if mother nature constantly uproots the foundation of their wellbeing. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

Hawaiian Scribe profile image

Hawaiian Scribe 2 years ago from Hawai'i

Thanks for your thoughtful solution to an ongoing problem. Unfortunately, this would entail an act of Congress and as the saying goes, "Congress doesnʻt act." Also, with todayʻs media circus environment, any large-scale solution would be demonized in the press before it ever got a fair hearing. Too bad we donʻt have sensible people like you in office. Aloha, Stephanie

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY Author

Hawaiian Scribe - Your comments are very true Stephanie. We just don't have the right people in political office to do the right things. They have their own agendas despite the fact that we are the ones voting for them.

Tod Zechiel profile image

Tod Zechiel 3 months ago from Florida, United States

Well, you certainly are thinking outside of the box. I used to work for the Bureau of Land Management. I worked with families who homesteaded under the Homestead Act. They had pride of ownership of their property for two or more generations. Thing was, they had to work to get the title and this factored into the generational pride. Somehow that would have to factor into the property transfer.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY Author

Tod Zechiel - Thank you for including your knowledge of the Homesetad Act in these comments. The fact that you worked with homesteaded families adds valuable authoritative information to this discussion. Yes, homesteading requires one to work the land to acquire ownership title and that may motivate people to take better care of their property in my opinion.

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    Glenn Stok1,119 Followers
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    Glenn Stok likes to write about rare experiences, such as this one, in addition to sharing other curious aspects of life that he researches.

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