While Mr. Trump was president, this idea continued to gain momentum after a series of devastating hurricanes. Agencies helping communities rebuild after disasters began pushing for what they called “large-scale migration or resettlement”, buying and demolishing vulnerable homes. The Army Corps of Engineers even began telling local communities that in order to get certain types of federal assistance, they had to be willing to evict reluctant homeowners from hard-to-protect homes.
But going further with that logic and restraining new federal infrastructure spending in these areas was too difficult, Ms. Hill said.
The issue was raised again under the Trump administration but was quickly dismissed, according to a former administration official who has worked on resilience issues and requested anonymity because they were not authorized by their current employer to speak to the media.
Mr Biden’s infrastructure proposal suggests that political pressure remains.
The proposal does not include the word retirement, but calls for “resettlement assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities”. The plan does not say why resettlement assistance would apply specifically to Native American communities. In an interview, an administration official, who agreed to discuss the proposal on the condition that he is not identified by name, said the infrastructure package included money to improve data on future climate risks. This would allow governments to better understand the threats facing new projects, the person said, and to incorporate that information into decisions about how and where to build.
Jainey Bavishi, who worked on managed retirement policy as a senior official in the Obama administration, said the question was difficult because it went beyond engineering and finance.
Deciding where to retreat is also a matter of race and equity, she said, as many vulnerable areas are also minority communities that have suffered from a lack of government investment in the past. Retirement also has an impact on other political issues, such as the availability of affordable housing and the impact on the financial health of families.
“Talking about where people can live and where people cannot live is ultimately what it is,” said Ms. Bavishi, who is now the director of the mayor’s office of resilience in New York. “And these are really, really hard conversations to have.”