Nov 18, 2017

When Jacksonville floods, the rich don’t worry; the poor fight to get through

Jacksonville, FL
Meredith Rutland Bauer
Mother Jones
Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/Zuma
Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/Zuma

Jacksonville’s Northside region was covered with swampland before the 1950s. The floodplain was home to some bait and tackle shops, commercial fisheries, and luxury waterfront homes, but all that changed as the fledgling city grew.


Hurricane Irma smashed into Jacksonville this fall, and the storm’s impact highlighted one of the worst-kept secrets in urban real estate: Floodplains in U.S. cities with residential properties are almost always occupied by the poorest residents of those areas, said Mechele Dickerson, a University of Texas, Austin, bankruptcy law professor and an expert in real estate equity issues.


While wealthier communities are still facing extensive repairs after Irma, which dumped about 20 inches of rain on the city, compounded by a strong high tide that overflowed the banks of the St. Johns River, much of those areas drained within hours. But some neighborhoods near Jacksonville’s Ribault River held water for days, and residents now face the task of gutting their moldy homes.