Giving Compass' Take:

· According to Governing Magazine, the number of Americans living in areas at high risk of flooding has increased 14 percent due to lack of policy against construction in flood-prone areas. 

· What cautions can construction companies take to ensure houses are built in safe areas? What policies are needed to enforce safe construction?

· Floods are a natural disaster displacing thousands of people. Learn more about natural disasters and how you can help.

There are signs of development seemingly everywhere on Johns Island, at the edge of Charleston, S.C. Traffic on and off the island routinely backs up. Balloons and arrows posted on utility poles direct motorists to open houses. Signs advertise single-family homes from the low $200s, a bargain compared to those a short drive away in central Charleston.

At 84 square miles, it’s one of the 10 largest islands in the contiguous United States. But until recently, it has been sparsely populated. Now crews are clearing land to make way for sprawling subdivisions. The island’s population has doubled in the past two decades to nearly 20,000, with much more growth expected as thousands of new homes go on the market.

Some of the residents of Johns Island are encouraged by the development; others are unhappy with the prospect of substantial change. But all of them are aware of what has happened nearby, in the West Ashley area of the city, just across the Stono River. West Ashley offers a cautionary tale of floodplain development. Decades ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) misjudged how a certain creek basin functioned, so homes were built where officials now say they shouldn’t have been. Floods devastated West Ashley subdivisions in each of the past three years, most recently during Hurricane Irma in 2017. It’s a dire scenario that local officials are trying to avoid on low-lying Johns Island as development accelerates.

Read the full article about building homes in flood zones by Mike Maciag at Governing Magazine.