Managed Retreat as Restitution - Planning for Racially-Conscious Unbuilding

Authors: Jared Enriquez*, University At Albany
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Urban and Regional Planning, Environmental Justice
Keywords: managed retreat; relocation, land reparations, urban planning
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Millions of homes will soon become uninhabitable due to sea level rise, shoreline erosion, floods and wildfires, while few inhabitants possess viable options for permanent shelter or rebuilding. Where will they resettle, and what will become of their homes after natural and political forces disassemble their communities?

Governments are at the very nascent stages of considering managed retreat to relocate those at risk, and pilot communities are still grappling with full implementation of community-scaled relocation. Since the US Federal government has directly contributed to producing vulnerability and risk, it therefore also carries a legal and ethical obligation to rectify racial disparities in the processes of retreat. One of the greatest challenges to a racially-conscious retreat strategy would be achieving consensus in the deliberation process for calculating community restitution - the amount and types of resources that need to supplement individuals’ compensation in an affected area, particularly social and financial assets derived from a community that are not captured within property values but are needed to actualize relocation.

This paper outlines approaches for governments to begin valuation of community-based social capital. Reparations could support individual mobility and adaptation, but would prove insufficient to move full communities and their institutions and resources. Findings indicate that the communities need a range of climate adaptation funds, including unrestricted, to accommodate the range of homeowner interested in the process of retreat.

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