by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the American Spectator
Geologists at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources warn that an imminent landslide threatens the homes of about 70 people along a sliver of land called Rattlesnake Ridge. Residents have been offered five paid weeks at a hotel, and most have taken it. They’re still returning home every few days to take care of animals, with no permanent solution. What happens after five weeks?
These stories of displaced people are heartbreaking. One mother told the newspaper, “We have to move and we don’t have enough money… I’m alone with my son and I’m pregnant, so it’s not easy.” Nature can be cruel, far too often.
So many people are rendered homeless by disasters, that a global organization tracks the numbers. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reports that about 20 million people become homeless every year because of conflict, violence, and especially natural disasters.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed 800,000 homes, displacing over a million people, and taxpayers spent at least $110 billion rebuilding over the next decade. Superstorm Sandy displaced 341,000 people in New Jersey alone; several years later 14,000 have still not replaced their lost homes, despite $65 billion in aid. That’s how we react to such crises — with money.
Americans are charitable. They send money, food, and other relief around the world when disaster strikes. They take in refugees from anywhere, but have no good solutions for the people on Rattlesnake Ridge. However, we may have a unique relief option few have ever considered. What if, instead of spending money to rebuild in the same disaster-prone places, we offered land to build somewhere else? That is the question behind a new idea called “disaster relief homesteading.”