What have we learned from past disaster recovery efforts that could be applied in the way of housing assistance following Hurricane Sandy?
View the full forum here. As communities in New York and New Jersey come to grips with the scale of the damage from Superstorm Sandy, it is important that response, recovery and rebuilding efforts build off of the lessons learned and best practices gleaned from response to previous disasters. Soon after Hurricane Katrina, Enterprise was in the Gulf Coast to assist with recovery. Seven years later, we continue to work in the region, having invested over $200 million to date towards rebuilding nearly 7,500 affordable homes in stronger, more resilient communities. We’ve learned many lessons along the way, and are applying them to our work in helping Sandy-impacted communities to rebuild.
- Coordinate resources and communicate clearly with stakeholders. As multiple agencies, companies, charitable organizations and individuals work to help the affected area, coordination will help speed the recovery process and maximize the effectiveness of resources. Communication with affected households should be transparent and consistent, providing the information necessary to access available resources and make informed decisions about rebuilding.
- Establish and communicate local priorities. Local government leadership can encourage private-sector investment and philanthropy that will help achieve local recovery and rebuilding goals by clearly communicating specific short- and long-term needs and priorities.
- Focus on permanent housing solutions. While temporary shelter is a necessary component of disaster response and recovery, adequate resources should be dedicated toward permanent housing from the beginning. FEMA’s innovative STEP program and the City of New York’s Rapid Repairs program are promising examples of building programs directly from lessons learned after Katrina. Investing in allowing households to ‘shelter in place’ is far less stressful on families, and a better use of federal dollars
- Invest in infrastructure. While a place to live is important, community facilities, schools, transportation and other services are necessary for resuming day to day activities.
- Take advantage of existing human capital and organizational expertise. Engage the region’s high-capacity and experienced local and private sector community development organizations and utilize their knowledge of local markets.
- Employ proven community development tools that leverage private-sector investment. These tools include the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credit.
- Set realistic timelines. Disaster housing vouchers and other forms of temporary housing assistance should have deadlines that sufficiently account for the length of the recovery. Inadequate durations can necessitate one or more extensions, which increases housing insecurity and stress to households fearful of prematurely losing assistance.
- Have patience and perseverance. Recovery takes time, and stakeholders should be prepared to engage and invest in recovery for the long-term. This takes patience and commitment, as implementation of this vision occurs one home at a time.
- Finally, as we work to help the people and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy, it is important to document and disseminate new lessons learned for rebuilding sustainably to apply for future disasters. Michelle Whetten is vice president and Gulf Coast market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work. Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector. Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.