“Before the Sea Rises, Buildings Soar” – Miami Beach

From the WashPost, this article about the cost of climate change: Miami’s climate catch-22: Building waterfront condos to pay for protection against the rising sea. In one of cities most vulnerable to climate change, a high-stakes bet to out-build the sea. Two of my regular readers provided some insightful comments. They follow:

From Don Watson:  Most of the condos of Miami Beach are going up with monies from overseas investors, who think that Miami Beach is a safer place to put their money (rather than in their own countries). Many apartments in the new buildings are not occupied much of the year (but with air conditioning running to control mold).

There are many other situations like this, essentially based on short term view and developer ability to get in and out of an investment (profitably they hope) before the end game. The city sets up the land development game rules to attract players to the table, with house rules to be sure, but not entirely of their making. Nature is the dealer and ultimate collector of debts.

 From Ed Thomas, President of NHMADon is quite correct in saying ” Nature deals the cards and collects the debts.” But this is far from the whole story. When developers and local folk can externalize the costs of errors and poor design and construction to others — like the federal taxpayer, disaster victims/ survivors, especially the most disadvantaged and underrepresented — but then the environment others suffer. The developers reap a windfall of profits and local taxes  — so we have business as usual.

This article really can help us all understand how we need to transform community development so that we do not have the exact externalizations of costs so prevalent now. The US Supreme Court indicated in the Koontz case that the prevention of externalizations of costs was fundamental to proper land use and had long been sustained against constitutional challenge. [ See Lynesy Rae Johnson & Ed Thomas’ article for the Environmental Law Institute available on the NHMA website.

Coastal, and other hazardous location development is a cash cow for many local governments, who in turn influence where and how development takes place. There are lots of  ways to turn around this situation and NHMA is working on several.


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