Don’t Rebuild Beach Houses With Taxpayer Money: The Case of Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island after Hurricane Katrina


We have written before about the fact that beach houses, at least those right on the beach, make no sense from an environmental or economic standpoint.

Houses built right next to the ocean will fall into the sea sooner or later. In the meantime, however, some people, usually quite wealthy people, enjoy the unobstructed view of the Great Blue. When the houses do finally tumble into the ocean—these houses are literally built on sand—the tax payer bails them out.

Between federal flood insurance and something called the Stafford Act, homeowners who enjoy being right next to the ocean (when the weather’s good) are largely indemnified in the event of a loss.

If a loss occurs these homes are often replaced with even larger homes, which in turn increase erosion that much more. Then another hurricane or nor’easter comes through and the cycle is repeated. On your dime.

This is a classic case where free marketeers and environmentalists can come together. It makes no sense to subsidize the building of homes on top of dunes, that is of course unless one happens to own one of these homes, and many a state legislator or congressman probably do. Not to mention the people who contribute to their campaigns.

(From the New York Times)

Like many other beachfront towns, Dauphin Island has benefited from the Stafford Act, a federal law that taps the United States Treasury for 75 percent or more of the cost of fixing storm-damaged infrastructure, like roads and utilities.

At least $80 million, adjusted for inflation, has gone into patching up this one island since 1979 — more than $60,000 for every permanent resident. That does not include payments of $72 million to homeowners from the highly subsidized federal flood insurance program…

People here have formed strong emotional attachments to their island. “There’s a lot of wildlife and a lot of bird life, and it’s just a great place to relax,” said Jay Minus, a lawyer in Mobile who owns two homes on the western end. “You can sit on the porch and watch the dolphins swim past your house.”

That’s great Mr. Minus. But don’t make me pay for your view of the dolphins.

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