Exploring Transfer of Development Rights as a Possible Climate Adaptation Strategy - Urban Land Institute Resilience Panel Focus Group with Miami-Dade County

In November 2017, the Urban Land Institute’s Southeast Florida/Caribbean District Council (ULI) published a report in partnership with Miami-Dade County's Office of Resilience exploring the possibility of creating a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program in the County of Miami-Dade, Florida as a possible climate adaptation strategy. The report was the result of the work of a ULI Resilience Panel Focus Group - established by ULI and the Office of Resilience - to assess the feasibility of a TDR program and whether one could facilitate the voluntary retreat of people and vulnerable development away from flood-prone areas at the county or municipal level. In addition to documenting the Focus Group’s process, the report presents the important components and functions of a TDR program, what a TDR program might look like in a coastal context, what factors or “lessons learned” from existing programs should be avoided, and recommendations for potential next steps. This report can inform the development of TDR programs for climate resilience or sea-level rise throughout Southeast Florida and in other coastal jurisdictions.

At the beginning of the report, ULI states that, although other TDR programs exist within Miami-Dade County - in the cities of Miami (for historic preservation) and Sunny Isles (for park land) - none have been established for the explicit purpose of climate change. The Focus Group found that TDRs can be a useful tool to manage retreat from low-lying, flood-prone areas, when implemented as part of a well-thought out, comprehensive plan; however, ULI also notes that TDRs do not provide a single solution to the complex issue of climate change adaptation and must be utilized in combination with other legal and policy tools. 

In the report, ULI summarizes a number of the Focus Group’s overarching recommendations including that a new TDR program be established as one component of the comprehensive plan for the Arch Creek Basin, a 2,838-acre multijurisdictional drainage basin which has been selected as the county’s first pilot Adaptation Action Area. ULI also cautions that the supply and demand of TDR credits requires careful management to ensure they are responsive to market forces and priced appropriately. Accordingly, ULI proposes alternatives for determining the value of credits and zoning intensity or density bonuses. In addition, ULI discusses how the county could minimize the impacts of TDR programs on individual property owners and community cohesion in flood-prone “sending” areas, such as by delaying buyout transactions (where participating homeowners would not have to move until a future flood event occurs within a time period of up to ten years) and providing low-cost housing incentives in higher ground “receiving” neighborhoods. 

ULI concludes the report by recognizing the need to consider TDR programs and other adaptation strategies in a pre-disaster context to avoid the risks associated with post-disaster responses.


Publication Date: November 2017

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