Keyswide Home Elevation Education and Organization Project Supports Limited-Income Homeowners to Reduce Flood Risk

July 15, 2020

Photo Credit: Nancy Klingener/WLRN

With some of the lowest elevations in South Florida, communities across the Florida Keys face significant risk from flooding related to sea level rise, nuisance flooding, and storm surge. As a result, people are already moving away from the barrier island, with an estimated 3,000 people relocating after Hurricane Irma alone. Limited income households—who make up the bulk of the Key’s workforce and multigenerational families—in-particular, are being driven out due to both rising insurance costs adding to housing unaffordability, as well as the fact that many live in homes that are prone to repeat flooding causing significant disruption and financial hardship. Many of these residents live in post-World War 2, slab-on-grade, concrete block constructed homes that were built during a time when surge was not considered and are now very expensive and difficult to elevate or move in order to reduce flood risk. There has been strong interest from homeowners within the floodplain to move out of harm’s way by elevating their property, but many barriers exist.  

To contend with this challenge, the City of Key West, Monroe County, Monroe County Extension Service, and the non-profit Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe have partnered and received a Gulf of Mexico Climate and Resilience Community of Practice grant. The partners will work together to develop and provide resources and educational information to homeowners seeking to elevate their homes, build greater collaboration with the public, explore financing options, and reduce insurance burden and costs related to adaptation. The team will develop an inventory of recent home elevations and analyze a myriad of factors to better understand and inform the public of associated costs, eligible home types, impacts on insurance, permit requirements, among other key details. Several workshops will be held throughout the Keys to help distribute information and hear from the community about their concerns and interest in reducing flood risk, where advisors will be made available to low-income homeowners to help work through financial challenges related to floodproofing their homes. Finally, the team will organize opportunities for bulk bidding and contracting of services that will allow cost reduction of home elevation through economies of scale.