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Affordable Housing and Disaster Recovery: A Case Study of the 2013 Colorado Floods



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7Affordable Housing
and Disaster Recovery
A Case Study of the
2013 Colorado Floods
Andrew Rumbach and Carrie Makarewicz
Affordable housing* is an essential part of healthy and sustainable communities,
creating health, education, and economic benets to households (Mueller and Tighe
2007; Housing Colorado 2014). It is also a central issue in disaster recovery. When
affordable housing is damaged or destroyed, communities must decide whether to
* Housing is considered affordable when occupant(s) pay 30% or less of their gross income, including
utilities (HUD 2015). Households are considered “housing burdened” if they pay more than 30% of
their gross income for housing. Subsidized housing is generally restricted to households ear ning less
than the area median income (AMI), though in some h igh cost regions, eligibility may exceed 120% of
the AMI.
7.1 Introduction: Disasters, Affordable Housing, and Recovery ..........................99
7.2 Disaster Recovery and Affordable Housing ................................................. 100
7.3 The 2013 Colorado Floods............................................................................ 102
7.4 Methods ........................................................................................................ 102
7.4.1 Loss of Affordable Housing: Evans, Lyons, and Milliken ............... 103 Evans, Colorado ................................................................. 103 Lyons, Colorado ................................................................. 104 Milliken, Colorado ............................................................. 105
7.5 Affordable Housing and Recovery in Colorado: Key Insights ..................... 106
7.5.1 Affordable Housing as Pre-Existing Problem ..................................10 6
7.5.2 Vulnerability of Lower Income Households ..................................... 106
7.5.3 Role of Local Government and Residents ........................................ 107
7.5.4 Other Actors and Specialized Agencies ........................................... 107
7.6 Conclusions: Lessons and Implications ........................................................ 10 8
Acknowledgments ..................................................................................................108
References .............................................................................................................. 108
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100 Coming Home after Disaster
rebuild it, and if so, where and when. Such decisions shape the long-term character
of the community, as well as the recovery of households who rely upon affordable
housing. These households are often more exposed to hazards, and after a disaster,
they often are at the mercy of landlords and local governments to repair or rebuild
housing they can access and afford. In this chapter, we explore key variables that
guide decisions about affordable housing post-disaster, based on the 2013 oods
in Colorado. The oods destroyed a signicant amount of affordable housing in a
region where housing affordability is a major and ongoing challenge.
We seek to answer what drives some communities to rebuild, or attempt to
rebuild, affordable housing post-disaster, and not others? First, we discuss research
on disaster recovery and affordable housing that forms the theoretical and regulatory
context for our case. Next, we describe the 2013 ood in Colorado and its effect on
affordable housing in the Front Range region*. We then present brief case studies
of three ooded communities that lost a signicant amount of affordable housing
during the oods: the town of Lyons, in Boulder County, and the city of Evans and
town of Milliken in Weld County. We conclude with key ndings from Colorado and
general lessons for post-disaster affordable housing.
In contrast to earlier studies that theorized disaster recovery as “ordered, knowable,
and predictable” (see e.g., Haas et al. 1977; Kates and Pijawka 1977), contempo-
rary research shows that disaster recovery is an uneven process with some house-
holds and groups recovering more quickly and completely than others (Mileti 1999;
Wisner etal. 2004; Daniels etal. 2006; NRC 2006; Olshansky etal. 2012). Others
also nd that the terrain of recovery is quite varied (Rubin 1985; Olshansky etal.
2006; Ganapati and Ganapati 2009; Rubin 2009; Smith 2012). Smith and Wenger
(2007, p. 238) argue that recovery is largely a social, not technical, process, and
unequal recovery reects larger social, economic, and institutional processes that
reproduce inequality outside of disasters (see also Benner and Pastor 2012). Housing
is a key component of sustainable disaster recovery (Bolin 1985; Berke etal. 1993;
Smith and Wenger 2007; Olshansky 2009; Smith 2012). Although affordable hous-
ing is just one element of recovery, it is a fundamental and often controversial issue,
particularly around issues of equity and sustainability (Bolin and Stanford 1991;
Kamel and Loukaitou-Sideris 2004; Green etal. 2007).
Disasters can impact affordable housing directly through damage or destruction
of homes (the focus of this chapter) or indirectly through housing price increases due
to the sudden drop in supply. Rebuilding affordable housing post-disaster confronts
the same constraints faced under normal conditions, including location and land
availability, the will and capacity of local actors, and the availability of external
resources, among others. Affordable housing tends to be disproportionately located
in hazard-prone areas, where land is often cheapest, causing disproportionately
* The Colorado Front Range is an urban cor ridor east of the Rocky Mountains housing more than 80%
of Colorado’s population. It stretches from Pueblo to Fort Collins, including the cities of Colorado
Springs, Denver, Boulder, and Greeley, and surrounding communities.
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101Affordable Housing and Disaster Recovery
higher levels of damage during disasters to lower income households (Peacock etal.
2007, p. 265). After a disaster, rebuilding in hazard-prone areas often triggers new
regulatory and insurance burdens, making recovery more costly and difcult (Green
etal. 2007) when redevelopment on these sites is restricted by contemporary ood-
plain development rules and regulations.*
Thus, local actors and institutions are critical to affordable housing recovery.
Although research has shown that permanent housing replacement is “primarily a
market driven process” (Peacock et al. 2007, p. 264; Zhang and Peacock 2009),
housing is highly regulated and dependent upon appropriate zoning and infrastruc-
ture, and hazard and mortgage insurance is regulated at the state and federal levels.
Public sector actions are especially critical for affordable housing, which is rarely
provided without incentives, write-downs, special nancing, and other tools (Nelson
and Khadduri 1992; Mueller and Schwartz 2008). While household resources and
market mechanisms are important, municipal decisions regarding land, allocation
of public resources (e.g., fee waivers), communications, recovery plans, pursuance
of grants and partnerships, and public involvement are also essential. Local gov-
ernment capacity also dictates recovery since housing reconstruction can be over-
whelming, including permitting, inspection, zoning, nancing, negotiating with
larger governments, and identifying new housing models and more sustainable
designs (Comerio2014).
Like other aspects of recovery, external resources drive the reconstruction of
affordable housing. Traditionally, housing reconstruction has relied upon private
funds like personal savings, loans, and insurance, with government programs ll-
ing the gaps (Zhang and Peacock 2010, p. 6; referencing Comerio 1998). It fol-
lows that recovery for households with few resources and reliance upon affordable
housing lags behind other groups. But the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) is attempting to address this disparity. Eligible communities
can request an advance on their existing HUD funds to repair public housing and
construct rental housing (Zhang and Peacock 2009; Comerio 2014) and HUD and
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have created the CDBG-Disaster
Recovery (CDBG-DR) block grant. When used for housing, 50% of the CDBG-DR
funds must benet low and moderate income households.
Despite its importance, the topic of affordable housing recovery remains under-
studied (Tierney etal. 2001, p. 100; quoted in Peacock etal. 2007, p. 260). There
are exceptions, of course, namely the post-Katrina literature (e.g., Green etal. 2007;
Quigley 2007), as well as recent national publications that provide guidance for
* In the United States, communities participating in the National Flood Insurance P rogram (NFIP) are
required to regulate development within mapped oodplains. In many communities, development that
existed prior to the creation of the NFIP program is not built to contemporary codes and sta ndards.
After a disaster, owners of those developments must rebuild them to the most current codes (e.g., by
elevating above the base ood elevation), which can be cost prohibitive. In some cases, redevelopment
is not allowed at all, because the damaged properties are located in high hazard areas like oodways.
These HU D funds include Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the HOME Investment
Partnership Program.
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102 Coming Home after Disaster
housing reconstruction*. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of research on local level
post-disaster decision making for affordable housing. This chapter aims to ll those
gaps in prior research.
The September 2013 oods were one of the costliest disasters in state history
(Colorado Recovery Ofce 2014), affecting dozens of communities across the Front
Range. Eighteen counties were in the federal disaster declaration, with much of the
damage concentrated in Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties (see Figure 7.1).
Affordable housing was a major challenge for the Front Range before the disaster.
Typical of many regions in the western United States, the Front Range is experienc-
ing rapid population growth with an accompanying rise in housing prices and decline
in the availability of affordable housing. Regionally, average rents and median home
prices have increased 10%–16% each year since the ood, and rental vacancy rates
continue to drop (Housing Colorado 2014; S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015).
To understand the decision-making process for affordable housing recovery, we fol-
lowed the recovery process in three selected communities for 2 years (2013–2015)
* See for instance, FEMA’s National Disaster Housing Strategy (2009), HUD’s Pre-Disaster Housing
for Permanent Housing Recovery (2012), and the American Planning Association’s Planning for Post-
Disaster Recovery: Next Generation (2014).
The histor ic ood event destroyed 1500 homes and resulted in nearly $4 billion in economic loss
(CR RO 2015).
Larimer County
Weld County
Fort Collins
Fort Collins
Denver MetroDenver Metro
FIGURE 7.1 Location of case study communities.
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103Affordable Housing and Disaster Recovery
using a case study research design. Our data include surveys with 97 households,
45 interviews with local, county, and state ofcials involved in recovery, and direct
observation of over 50 recovery meetings and events. We analyzed the household
surveys to compare household recovery trajectories across communities (Rumbach
et al. 2016). We summarized notes from the meetings and transcribed the inter-
views in order to identify themes, processes, stakeholders, and other inuences.
Throughout the research, we sought clarication and conrmation of our ndings
from individuals directly involved in the recovery.
7.4.1 Loss of AffordAbLe Housing: evAns, Lyons, And MiLLiken
In this section, we present brief case studies of each community, describing the
ood’s impacts on affordable housing and subsequent actions (or inactions) taken
locally during the recovery. Evans, Colorado
Evans is a fast-growing city located along the South Platte River in the plains east of
the Rocky Mountains. Over the past decade, Weld County has had strong economic
growth from the oil and gas, agriculture, and meatpacking industries. From 1990 to
2013, the population of Evans tripled, from 6150 to an estimated 19,994 (US Census
2014; Weld County 2014), creating signicant housing pressures in Evans and nearby
communities. At the time of the ood, the city’s rental housing vacancy rate was
below 2%, a historic low, while rental prices had reached an all-time high (Greeley-
Weld Housing Authority, personal communication 2015).
The ooding of the South Platte River (see Figure 7.1) signicantly damaged or
destroyed over 300 housing units in Evans, including 208 mobile homes and several
dozen market-rate affordable rentals. The mobile homes were located in two adja-
cent communities near the river, outside the regulatory (100-year) oodplain. As a
consequence, the vast majority of residents did not have ood insurance. After the
ood, Evans quickly condemned the destroyed trailers, citing the potential public
health impacts of the ooded homes. In January 2014, Evans revised and updated
their oodplain maps, designating large portions of the two mobile housing parks
as within the regulatory oodplain. City leadership argued the pre-ood maps were
outdated and their primary charge was to protect public safety moving forward. The
updated maps made reconstruction of the mobile home parks cost prohibitive. The
owner of the largest park sued the city for impeding his business,* but both mobile
home parks remain closed.
As of 2015, most of the site-built affordable rental housing had been repaired and
reoccupied, but anecdotal conversations with former tenants suggest that some own-
ers are now charging signicantly higher (20% or more) rents.
Though the oods permanently destroyed 208 mobile homes, and rental prices
have risen, Evans has not pursued federal recovery grants or committed public
resources to rebuilding affordable housing. Based on interviews with public of-
cials, the city and elected ofcials believe the market will supply lower cost units if
* As of 2015, the lawsuit was rejected by the Weld County courts, and is under appeal.
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104 Coming Home after Disaster
there is a demand, and that the local government’s primary responsibility in disaster
recovery is to protect public safety and ensure that infrastructure and critical facili-
ties are repaired and protected. Since the ood, more than 800 permanent housing
units have been built or planned, but very few (<10%) will be affordable to house-
holds earning less than 80% of the area median income (AMI), and none will be
government regulated (permanently) affordable (Greeley-Weld Housing Authority,
personal communication 2015). Lyons, Colorado
Lyons is an historic small town in Boulder County at the foothills of the Rocky
Mountains and the conuence of the St. Vrain and South St. Vrain rivers (see
Figure7.1). Originally a mining and railroad town, Lyons is now known for its arts,
culture, and summertime music festivals. Lyons has grown in recent years from 1287
residents in 1990 to 2035 in 2013 (US Census 2014). Growth has been spurred by the
population and economic growth in the region, and the increasingly expensive and
growth-controlled housing market in the nearby city of Boulder.
Lyons also faced signicant affordable housing shortages prior to the ood. From
2000 to 2010, the median home value rose by 71% to over $340,000, while the num-
ber of available rentals fell by half (Town of Lyons 2015). At the time of the ood,
rental vacancy in Lyons and Boulder County was at a 12-year low (APA 2014a,b).
Of the renters in Lyons who earned less than 80% of the AMI, more than half (52%)
were cost-burdened (Town of Lyons 2015).
The oods signicantly damaged or destroyed roughly 20% of the Lyons housing
stock, including 172 site-built homes and 43 mobile homes, approximately 90% of
the town’s low income housing (Lyons Recovery Action Plan [LRAP] 2014; Town
of Lyons 2015). The town recognized that the loss of affordable housing would be
a major recovery challenge and a citizens’ housing recovery group formed immedi-
ately. Three months later, the town undertook an intensive 8-week recovery planning
process with hundreds of local participants, resulting in the LRAP. The LRAP has a
dedicated chapter on housing recovery, including a goal to increase opportunities for
affordable housing. The Board of Trustees (BOT) designated the citizens’ group as
an ofcial task force on housing recovery and charged them with studying the issue
and generating proposals. Their actions were regularly reported in the town’s local
newspapers and at BOT meetings.
Despite political and popular support, 2 years after the ood the town has been
unable to replace but a handful of the affordable units. As a result, the population has
shrunk to 1865, with 185 households still displaced (Colorado Public Radio 2015).
Of those, 72% (133) were low income (80% of the AMI), and 39% (72) were very low
income (30% of the AMI) (Town of Lyons 2015).
Two related factors led to the long-term loss of affordable housing in Lyons. First,
many of the damaged or destroyed homes were in the designated 100-year oodplain
or oodway, introducing signicant regulatory and nancial barriers to rebuild-
ing. Both mobile home parks, which included 43 affordable units, were located in
the oodway and have permanently closed. A substantial number of homeowners
(over30) in the Conuence neighborhood, a ood-damaged area with many afford-
able homes, are voluntarily participating in two property buyout programs funded by
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105Affordable Housing and Disaster Recovery
FEMA and HUD. Second, Lyons has a severe shortage of developable land within its
planning boundaries but outside of the oodplain, due to the steep terrain surround-
ing the town and Boulder County’s Open Space program, which has purchased land
near Lyons since the 1970s. The few available parcels are unsuitable for replacement
housing for a variety of reasons, particularly conservation easements, unsuitable ter-
rain, and high valuations.
After more than a year of intensive debate and planning, the town proposed a
new 66-unit affordable housing development that would give preference to ood-
displaced households. The proposed site was an approximately 6-acre parcel within
a 30-acre park near downtown and existing infrastructure. Possible funding included
disaster recovery grants and affordable housing tax credits totaling $27 million
(Town of Lyons 2015). Colorado state law requires that the sale or disposal of munic-
ipal parkland be subject to a popular vote (Colorado Revised Statutes 31-15-713).
The election, held in March 2015, rejected the proposal by a count of 614-498. Full
analysis of the vote is beyond this chapter’s scope, but opposition centered on con-
cerns over lost park space, distrust by some local residents of the county’s housing
authority and federal recovery programs, and the proximity to nearby schools and
neighborhoods, as well as the oodplain. Milliken, Colorado
Milliken is a small historic agricultural town near the conuence of the Big
Thompson and Little Thompson rivers, in Weld County. It has grown rapidly in the
past two decades, from a population of 1605 in 1990 to 5610 in 2010 (US Census).
It is mostly a bedroom community; less than 3% of the population works locally
(US Census). Milliken also faced signicant housing pressure prior to the ood—
the vacancy rate for rent or purchase was less than 2% and the town had very lit-
tle affordable housing (Town of Milliken 2014). Besides two mobile home parks,
Milliken had a 28-unit market-rate apartment complex with affordable rents and a
20-unit permanently affordable senior housing facility. Over 90% of the housing in
Milliken is single-family detached homes.
The oodwaters from the Big and Little Thompson destroyed 35 mobile homes
and substantially damaged eight more, much of Milliken’s affordable housing.
Immediately after the ood, the town authorized the reopening of the mobile home
parks to prevent displaced residents from becoming homeless (Draper 2013). The
residents were required to sign an afdavit, however, that stated the mobile home
park might be included in the oodplain of an updated ood map and “…in such
instance, I may be required to relocate my mobile home in the future at my own
cost…I understand that this relocation might be outside Milliken” (Brown and
Cr um my 2013).
By 2015, approximately 28 of the 43 mobile homes have been repaired or replaced
on a temporary basis, while the owner of one of the two parks continues the process
of obtaining oodplain development permits. In March of 2014, the town adopted
temporary oodplain maps, which expanded the ood hazard area to include the
mobile home parks, beyond what is ofcially regulated by FEMA. As such, the
parks’ owners and residents will need to clear a series of costly regulatory hurdles
in order to rebuild, and residents will need to carry ood insurance. They have also
K25654_C007.indd 105 7/8/2016 5:28:31 PM
106 Coming Home after Disaster
been required to rebuild the parks, lots, and homes to current development codes.
Milliken ofcials argue the new regulations are necessary to ensure the health and
safety of the parks’ residents and anticipate the ofcial oodplain map revisions will
likely expand the special ood hazard area to reect the temporary maps. Residents
and owners have publicly questioned whether the town is trying to rid itself of mobile
homes (Peif 2014).
The town is also actively attempting to purchase both mobile home parks (along
with other nearby properties) for the purpose of ood mitigation using federal hazard
mitigation and recovery grants. These funds require the voluntary sale of the parks
by the landowners and necessitate that the land be used for open space or passive
recreation, and never again be used for residential or commercial development. In
the event the purchase occurs, the households would need to be relocated, almost
certainly outside of Milliken. Since the ood, there has been no new affordable hous-
ing built outside of the repaired mobile home parks. Town ofcials acknowledge that
the free market is not producing new affordable housing, and that it is problematic
for recovery since they expect 86% of the future housing demand will come from
households earning less than $35,000 (Town of Milliken 2014, p. 55). However, the
town argues it does not have the capacity to develop and manage affordable housing
The loss of at least 300 units of low-cost housing in the three cases offers important
insights into the dynamics of affordable housing in post-disaster recovery.
7.5.1 AffordAbLe Housing As Pre-existing ProbLeM
Which households were most affected, and which have recovered, reect the area’s
broader social, political, and economic context, similar to other disasters. Despite
the region’s growth and economic prosperity, neither the market nor the public sec-
tor have produced sufcient amounts of affordable housing before, or since, the
ood. What relatively little affordable housing existed before the disaster was often
affordable, because it was older, in poor condition, in undesirable locations, or was
a mobile home, and not because it had been subsidized. Replacement subsidies for
these market-affordable units are not available. As a result, some displaced resi-
dents have referred to the disaster gentrication phenomenonthat the ood has
accelerated the replacement of older housing with more costly and less inclusive
7.5.2 vuLnerAbiLity of Lower incoMe HouseHoLds
Affordable housing was disproportionately affected because of its physical location
on ood-prone, less expensive land, and households living in mobile home parks were
especially vulnerable. The ood caused 13 mobile home parks to close, displacing
K25654_C007.indd 106 7/8/2016 5:28:31 PM
107Affordable Housing and Disaster Recover y
at least 400 households. In addition to their location, mobile home residents were
uniquely affected because of their lack of legal protections, the inability to relocate
damaged trailers, and community ambivalence toward rebuilding the parks (Lyons
Emergency Assistance Fund 2015). This mirrors experiences in other disasters (e.g.,
Baker etal. 2014).
7.5.3 roLe of LocAL governMent And residents
The varying experiences of the three cases show post-disaster affordable housing
decisions are made primarily by local actors, despite communities recovering under
the same federal and state regime with signicant external support for rebuilding
subsidized affordable housing. In Evans, the local government closed the mobile
home parks immediately, and has left recovery to the private market. In Milliken,
the local government recognized the need for affordable housing, but did little to
facilitate its replacement, and proactively made the rebuilding of mobile home parks
more expensive and difcult in anticipation of updated oodplain maps. In Lyons,
the town government and a large share of residents made a strong commitment to
rebuild affordable housing and were backed by signicant external resources, but
a slight majority of residents voted to stop their efforts. In all three cases, the local
government’s decision framed the issue: was affordable housing a priority, and if
so, under what conditions? For example, CDBG-DR grants are a major source of
funding but because they have signicant “strings attached,” only Lyons was willing
to pursue the funds. Resident demand also mattered. Evans did not perceive strong
demand from residents to replace the affordable housing, in part because of their
beliefs about the role of government, but also because the most affected households
were displaced and no longer had a voice in local affairs. Although Millikens mobile
home park residents could return, their voices were limited in comparison to voices
desiring recovery of local recreation and infrastructure. Without a critical mass of
voices, or a strong culture of community engaged planning, a local government is
unlikely to prioritize affordable housing during recovery. While the Lyons case per-
haps illustrates the limitations of local government power, it conrms that the deci-
sion to rebuild affordable housing hinges on local community dynamics.
7.5.4 otHer Actors And sPeciALized Agencies
Other agencies and organizations are vital for affordable housing recovery, particu-
larly public housing authorities and local nonprots. In Lyons, the affordable housing
proposal was based on $250,000 in pre-application studies funded by the Boulder
County Housing Authority (BCHA). The BCHA won the proposal to lead the devel-
opment team, and committed substantial resources to the design and public engage-
ment processes. In Evans and Milliken, the housing authority is much more limited
in its budget and mission. It is unclear if either community considered applying for
federal funds, but they likely would not have been able to fund the pre-application
studies. The strength of local organizations also varied. In Lyons, several nonprots
contacted and organized displaced residents, and advocated for their needs, giving
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108 Coming Home after Disaster
voice to the displaced. Local ofcials credited these organizations with helping to
justify their actions for the affordable housing proposal. In Evans and Milliken, no
such advocacy organizations exist. Outside nonprots assisted with ood relief, but
no local organizations existed or emerged to address housing. We cannot say whether
local advocacy would have created more public demand for affordable housing in
Evans and Milliken, but it is true that the disaster-affected households in Lyons had
a more active role in recovery (Rumbach etal. 2016), and that Lyons is working with
the households and organizations to identify other affordable housing options.
Through this chapter we have begun to understand why some communities rebuild,
or attempt to rebuild, affordable housing post-disaster, and others do not. Local con-
ditions, including land availability, the housing market, government priorities and
capabilities, resident support of affordable housing, and the resources, reputations,
and commitments of local agencies, all play a role. These ndings suggest at least
two strategies for improving the recovery of affordable housing. Cities and towns,
the local housing authority, and nonprots should work with the community prior
to disasters to plan for the potential loss of affordable housing. This would identify
the level of risk and the potential for mitigation, engage with those who are most
vulnerable, and gauge public support for recovery options. They should also evaluate
the major external programs for housing recovery like the CDBG-DR and Hazard
Mitigation Grant Program, to determine whether they have the resources, capacity,
and political will to pursue such resources in the event of a major disaster.
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant number CMMI
#1446031) and the Natural Hazards Center (Quick Response Grant #250).
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Cat#: K25654 Chapter: 07
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... Most permanent affordable housing losses are rental units, whereas owner-occupied units (mostly mobile homes) are more likely to be relocated (Weicher et al., 2017). Research consistently finds net losses to affordable housing stock following major flood events (Bernstein et al., 2006;Reece, 2011;Fussell, 2015;Rumbach and Makarewicz, 2016;Aurand and Emmanuel, 2019;Ortiz et al., 2019). Public housing has faced stronger opposition to rebuilding than other housing tenure types (Hamideh and Rongerude, 2018), with anti-rebuilding sentiment toward public housing rooted in long-standing issues with racial and class-based stigmas (Hirsch and Levert, 2009), and perceived blight along with high vacancy rates. ...
Full-text available
Disaster recovery spending for major flood events in the United States is at an all-time high. Yet research examining equity in disaster assistance increasingly shows that recovery funding underserves vulnerable populations. Based on a review of academic and grey literature, this article synthesizes empirical knowledge of population disparities in access to flood disaster assistance and outcomes during disaster recovery. The results identify renters, low-income households, and racial and ethnic minorities as populations that most face barriers accessing federal assistance and experience adverse recovery outcomes. The analysis explores the drivers of these inequities and concludes with a focus on the performance of disaster programs in addressing unmet needs, recognition of intersectional social vulnerabilities in recovery analysis, and gaps in data availability and transparency.
... In line with a growing body of scholarship that finds MHPs are in areas exposed to environmental hazards (Flanagan et al., 2011;Shen, 2005;Simmons & Sutter, 2008), we found that areas with MHPs have, on average, greater amounts of land in the 100-year floodplain, which is particularly striking in the lower density areas (mainly Groups 3 and 4). This has potentially important equity implications because residents of MHPs are especially vulnerable before and after disaster due to a variety of socioeconomic and place-based factors (Rumbach & Makarewicz, 2016;Rumbach et al., 2020). Further study is needed to understand whether MHPs themselves are disproportionately located in regional floodplains and, if so, whether increasing urbanization may work to mitigate those threats. ...
Problem, research strategy and findings Mobile home parks (MHPs) are a major source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States but are poorly understood in planning research and practice. Here we present findings of one of the first and most comprehensive studies of MHPs in a U.S. metropolitan area. We located and spatially analyzed MHPs in the Houston (TX) metropolitan statistical area, comparing the sociodemographics, built environment, and environmental exposure of census block groups with higher shares of MHP land to block groups with fewer or no parks. We examined the relationship between land use regulations and the location of MHPs by coding government documents for the 132 jurisdictions in the metropolitan statistical area. We found that MHPs are an important component of the regional housing system and are located in areas with more diverse populations, lower socioeconomic status, and larger families. MHPs are concentrated in moderately urbanized areas relatively close to the central business district with lower housing costs and moderate job opportunities. They are clustered near other MHPs in areas with less access to transportation and urban amenities and greater exposure to environmental hazards. We demonstrate that the location of MHPs is associated with exclusionary land use regulations, which indicates future parks will likely be in areas with significant inequalities. Takeaways for practice MHPs are difficult to analyze because they are not identified in typical sources of planning data like the U.S. Census. Planning departments should use alternative methods, like those described in our study, to map and plan for MHPs. Most major cities and metropolitan regions are facing an affordable housing crisis, and the anti-MHP regulatory stance we observed in our study is concerning for regional equity. The concentration of MHPs in areas with significant environmental hazards indicates that planning actions are likely necessary to protect these residents from future flood events.
2012’s Superstorm Sandy had a devastating impact on the New York City metropolitan region, including the suburban Long Island coast and the New Jersey shore. Given the size, density, complexity, and diversity of the region, many approaches have been used to address poststorm recovery. Planning has been central to these efforts. Using in-depth interviews with recovery stakeholders, this analysis of the planning responses to Sandy illustrates what an emergent model of resilient recovery planning looks like and highlights the kinds of resources and approaches that help facilitate this approach. We argue that preexisting planning capacity, strong political leadership, and nongovernmental funding support were critically important aspects of resilience-focused Sandy recovery planning processes.
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Recovery is an important but understudied phase in the disaster management cycle. Researchers have identified numerous socio-demographic factors that help explain differences in recovery among households, but are less clear on the importance of place, which we define as a household's locality and local governance. In this paper, we examine the influence of place on disaster recovery through a study of the 2013 Colorado floods. Our findings are based on data collected from interviews, observation of recovery meetings, and a survey of 96 flood-affected households. We show that place shapes a household's disaster recovery by structuring: (1) physical exposure to hazards; (2) which local government has jurisdiction over recovery decisions; (3) local planning culture and its approach to citizen participation; and (4) the strength of social capital networks. Our findings expand the recovery literature and show that place-level variables should be taken into consideration when conceptualizing household recovery and resilience.
Conference Paper
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A review of the disaster recovery literature and observations in practice shows that the three types of assistance (funding, policy and technical assistance) provided before and after disasters has not been described collectively, including their potential to function as an interconnected system guided by an operational plan. Instead, past work has tended to focus on individual elements of programs and policies (May 1985; Mileti 1999), funding sources, or the means by which recovery policies are implemented (Birkland 1997, 2006). This approach has led to a limited understanding of the process and the suboptimal application of disaster assistance. The purpose of this research is to describe the organizations found in the disaster aid network, the types of aid they provide, and how they can be more effectively integrated into a broader, action-oriented framework. The proposed model is intended to more accurately describe the approach taken in the United States, while assisting practitioners more effectively coordinate the process, emphasizing the potential role of planning. This conference paper is a precursor to a more refined approach as described in the book Chapter Disaster Recovery in an Era of Climate Change: The Unrealized Promise of Institutional Resilience (Smith, Martin and Wenger 2018).
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a rapid succession of plans put forward a host of recovery options for the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Much of the debate focused on catastrophic damage to residential structures and discussions of the capacity of low-income residents to repair their neighbourhoods. This article examines impediments to the current recovery process of the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward, reporting results of an October 2006 survey of 3,211 plots for structural damage, flood damage and post-storm recovery. By examining recovery one year after Hurricane Katrina, and by doing so in the light of flood and structural damage, it is possible to identify impediments to recovery that may disproportionately affect these neighbourhoods. This paper concludes with a discussion of how pre- and post-disaster inequalities have slowed recovery in the Lower Ninth Ward and of the implications this has for post-disaster recovery planning there and elsewhere.
Breaking new ground in its innovative blend of quantitative and qualitative methods, the book essentially argues that another sort of growth is indeed possible. While offering specific insights for regional leaders and analysts of metropolitan areas, the authors also draw a broader – and quite timely – set of conclusions about how to scale up these efforts to address a U.S. economy still seeking to recover from economic crisis and ameliorate distributional divisions.
Social science research on disasters began in the early twentieth century with the publication of Samuel Henry Prince's sociology doctoral dissertation on the 1917 Halifax explosion (Prince 1920). However, disaster research did not begin to coalesce as a field until pioneering research was carried out by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Opinion Research Center in the early 1950s, as research teams were sent into the field to collect data on individual, group, and organizational responses to disasters (see Fritz and Marks 1954). The Disaster Research Center, established in 1963 at the Ohio State University and now located at the University of Delaware, continued the practice of conducting "quick-response" studies following major disasters, with an emphasis on organizational and community response. Over subsequent decades, other research centers were established both nationally and internationally. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 generated additional interest in disaster research, as questions were raised concerning a range of topics, including behavioral, psychological, and social-psychological responses to terrorism. Classic sociological research on disasters emphasized the pro-social and adaptive dimensions of disaster-related behavior. Studies consistently documented such patterns as widespread helping behavior among community residents, the emergence of new groups focusing on victim and community needs, increases in social cohesion, the convergence of volunteers and material resources into disaster areas, and the suspension of community conflicts as community residents and public and private-sector organizations put aside their pre-disaster agendas in the interest of overcoming disaster-induced challenges. Disasters were framed in the literature as "consensus" crises and contrasted with "conflict" crises such as riots. Outcomes following disasters include the emergence of "therapeutic communities" that support victims and maintain high community morale. Therapeutic communities help to cushion the negative psychological consequences of disasters, and as a result, negative psycho-social reactions tend to be short-lived following disasters (see Fritz 1961; Barton 1969; Dynes 1970; Stallings and Quarantelli 1985; Drabek 1986). Ongoing research on disasters provides additional support for these earlier empirical findings. At the same time, it has become increasingly evident that earlier consensus-oriented perspectives paid insufficient attention to the diverse ways in which individuals, groups, and communities experience disasters. In contrast with classic studies, newer research has emphasized those diverse experiences. Research has also shown how disaster-related experiences are shaped in important ways by the same dimensions of stratification and inequality that influence people's lives during non-disaster times. Disaster scholarship now recognizes that factors such as wealth and poverty, race and ethnicity, gender and age influence vulnerability to hazards, disaster victimization, and disaster recovery outcomes (Blaikie et al. 1994; Peacock, Morrow, and Gladwin 1997; Bolin and Stanford 1998; Fothergill 1998). As a consequence of these developments, disasters are no longer seen as producing common or typical challenges for at-risk populations. While morale and cohesiveness may undoubtedly be high within some groups within a disaster-stricken community, other groups may be excluded. Postdisaster experiences that are therapeutic for some may be corrosive for others. Some groups may be able to return to their pre-disaster status with relatively difficulty, while others may never fully recover. And to a greater degree than has been recognized before, disasters may become arenas not only for consensus-based social action but also for contentious intergroup interactions. Measures taken to deal with disasters may be welcomed by some groups but denounced by others. Relief programs may benefit some within the population while disadvantaging others Research also shows that groups are differentially vulnerable and also differentially resilient in the face of disasters, depending upon their position in the stratification system. The sections that follow discuss recent advances in the study of the social factors that affect disaster vulnerability and that contribute to resilience in the face of disasters. Using examples from both Hurricane Katrina and other U.S. disasters, these discussions illustrate how large-scale social trends, structural forces, and group characteristics influence preparedness for, responses to, and recovery from disasters. A key point made in these discussions is that while Hurricane Katrina revealed the devastating consequences of social inequality more vividly than any recent U.S. disaster, Katrina has a great deal in common with other disasters the nation has experienced. One implication of these findings is that diverse patterns of vulnerability and resilience must be taken into consideration both in programs that provide disaster aid and in overall planning frameworks for disaster loss reduction. Copyright
The post-disaster environment consists of a compression of urban development activities in time and in a limited space, a phenomenon referred to as time compression. Some phenomena compress in time more easily than others. This differential compression leads to a distortion in the interrelationships of urban development and decision processes when compared to relationships among those processes in normal times. Different types of organizations perform differentially under time compression. Everyone in the focused space of the disaster simultaneously seeks access to scarce resources, and those with better access to power are able to capture these finite resources before others can. Time-compression phenomena have implications for institutional design to facilitate post-disaster recovery. An important function of government agencies is to route resources from national to state/provincial to local agencies, and then to the community.
Federal disaster policy is an important but overlooked aspect of federal action that has provided a rich arena for pursuing our more general research interests concerning federal program implementation and management. May brought to the research task both a familiarity with the broad issues of federal disaster policy-having recently completed a book (May, 1985) about disaster relief policy and politics-and an understanding of the day-to-day workings of emergency management at the federal level. Williams provided the "imple mentation perspective" that undergirds the book, having previously devel oped and applied the perspective in two books (Williams, 1980a, b) about social programs. The study focuses upon the intergovernmental implementation of selected emergency management programs, primarily as played out at the federal and state levels. Our fieldwork and resultant description of disaster policy implementation allow us: (I) to analyze the implementation of selected aspects of disaster policy and to discuss federal management choices in this area; (2) to gain a greater understanding of federal program implementation under "shared governance"-a term we develop more fully in the book in referring to programs under which the federal and subnational governments share responsibility for program funding and management; and (3) to con sider the relevance of the lessons of earlier social program implementation research to a very different policy setting. Many individuals assisted us with this research. Our greatest debt is to those federal and state officials who took time from their busy schedules to offer their implementation perspectives about emergency management."