Residential buyouts as environmental mobility: examining where homeowners move to illuminate social inequities in climate adaptation
This study examines where residents move after accepting federally funded buyouts of their flood-prone homes. We use the concept of “environmental mobility” — defined as local, voluntary moves undertaken in the face of imminent environmental risk — to distinguish this type of climate adaptation from longer-distance and less-voluntary types of movement. We then use the case of Houston, Texas — the site of more than 3000 such buyouts between 2000 and 2017 — to build a unique dataset that enables, for the first time, address-level analysis of such environmental mobility. Results affirm that most people who move from residences of publicly identified environmental risk relocate to destinations nearby. Results also indicate that this environmental mobility reflects and thus seems to depend on racialization processes of neighborhood attainment, thereby challenging a purely technocratic framing of current buyout policies and illuminating the racialized nature of environmental mobility more generally.