Should I stay or should I go? Factors in household decisions for or against relocation from a flood risk area

Publication from Life
Wetter- und Klimarisikomanagement, Internationale Klimapolitik und Ökonomik

Seebauer S., Winkler C.

Global Environmental Change Volume 60, 11/2019


Planned relocation may permanently reduce exposure to natural hazards; however, residents in designated relocation zones are confronted with a broad array of challenges and face profound changes in their everyday lives. The present study empirically illustrates how economic, emotional, risk and social dimensions underpin household decisions to accept or decline a home buyout offer in a voluntary relocation program in the Eferding Basin, Austria. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 79 households living in the relocation zone, transcribed and subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Risk appraisal and financial feasibility of moving to a new home function as entry points to the decision process. Risk perception is strongly influenced by biographical experiences, traumatic memories, and personal resources to cope with a flood event. Economic reasons are judged in the light of the children's future prospects. Fear and uncertainty about future floods as well as a personal bond to the place are critical emotional factors. By contrast, social relationships play a marginal role because those who leave tend to resettle close-by, and because solitude and autonomy are valued higher than neighborhood networks. Status as a long-term resident, newcomer or elderly person shifts the importance of specific factors, for instance, self-efficacy beliefs or intergenerational considerations.

In order to facilitate relocation program implementation, compensation payments should be complemented by communication efforts addressing the emotional and risk dimensions. Communication activities should address those who leave as well as to those who stay and should be tailored to individual needs and resources of residents.

Keywords: Planned relocation, Climate change, Flooding, Place identity, Resettlement