A recent Atlantic Cities piece Why It's so Hard to Storm-Proof an Apartment Building highlights the disadvantages faced by multifamily apartment, condominium and co-op buildings when it comes to getting funds for repairs and protecting against future storms. After Sandy, single family homeowners are applying for FEMA funds for repairs to houses damaged by storm surge but multifamily buildings are not eligible for funds to repair common areas and utility systems. This is despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the New York housing units in the Sandy storm surge area were in multifamily buildings. What's more, New Jersey created a state fund that makes money available for raising homes above the flood plain-- an increasingly common plan in flood-prone areas, especially those dealing with higher flood insurance rates-- but this fund will primarily benefit single family homeowners since it's usually impractical to raise multifamily buildings.
Along with the many other lessons from Sandy, Miami should be paying attention to this one too. Just like plenty of other cities in the path of hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, Miami has large concentrations of multifamily buildings. According to the latest census data about 38% of Miami households are in buildings with at least 3 units. There are certainly things that multifamily buildings can do to become more resilient to floods, like moving utility rooms off the ground floor and installing mechanisms for moving elevator cars out of harm's way. Cities like Miami Beach have included many of these features in their building codes for new housing, but older buildings need sources of funding to undertake expensive retrofits.