Houston Chronicle profiles Texas Grow Homes

Widespread destruction of low-income neighborhoods, toxic FEMA trailers, countless homes rotting, vulnerable populations such as the elderly left homeless or in permanent exile from their communities. These problems have, on occasion, won the media’s attention following recent natural disasters.

Rarely has the media examined solutions to these problems. But this week, the Houston Chronicle did, in an on the Texas Grow Home Project: an initiative by the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (TxLIHIS) to fundamentally change the way the government responds in the wake of a disaster, and to establish a systemic solution the post-disaster housing crisis.

The story (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6937154.html) explains how the project began as a vision of creating quality affordable modular housing that can be quickly fabricated in the wake of a disaster, as an alternative to expensive and temporary FEMA trailers. The Chronicle article recognizes that the Grow Home vision does not stop with building model homes. Rather, it is a “revolutionary” effort to replace the failed status quo with a far-reaching disaster housing program that does what the FEMA trailer program does not: provide well-designed, sustainable, affordable homes and is responsive to the needs of low-income disaster survivors themselves.

The Chronicle profiles 73-year-old Janelle McDonough, who will soon live in one of three Texas Grow Home model homes in Rita-devastated Southeast Texas. Like all the low-income Hurricane Rita victims who will be calling the first three Texas Grow Home prototypes home, Janelle will be living in a home designed by top architects that is storm resistant, flexible in appearance and ready for move-in just weeks after a disaster— at a cost of just $65,000 (compared to the $125,000 the government spends on a temporary travel trailer).

Without a Texas Grow Home, Janelle would have been living indefinitely in her FEMA trailer.

With the first phase of the project completed, two prototypes finished and McDonough’s house to be ready for move-in soon, we are preparing for the next, and perhaps most important stage of the Grow Home project. This stage will involve the gathering of public input, making necessary design changes, and bringing stakeholders together to collaborate around establishing a state-supported program with a streamlined process for deploying Texas Grow Homes in a disaster zone. Essentially, the next phase is about implementing a broad programmatic change to disaster response. It is not a simple task.

The newly appointed Natural Disaster Housing Reconstruction Advisory Committee, created by TxLIHIS-backed legislation last session, will design this streamlined housing plan in preparation for large-scale production. This will involve the development of three 20-house Grow Home projects, as required by the legislation. Like the community “barn raising” of a Texas Grow Home, the next phase of the Grow Home demonstration program should be a community effort.

To learn more or to become involved in this exciting disaster housing revolution, visit the Texas Grow Home website www.texasgrowhome.com.

3 thoughts on “Houston Chronicle profiles Texas Grow Homes

  1. John:

    I have been promoting this type of program for the past two years. You are right on target and a strong collaboration with the non-community makes this works which is what I have found. Our solution was designed as an alternative eco-friendly solution for FEMA. We can build these fast and affordably. I have already pulled permits and best of all our panel board is made right there in TEXAS. I have about (100) of the (2) bedroom moels availbale and am ready to work with the communities.,My efforts thus far have been in Louisiana. I have strong legislative support for this type of system and woudlike to discuss your program in more detail. Please feel free to call me anytime and I can send you a complete package review the following for some more info. Thanks John

    http://www.wwltv.com/archive/65590802.html

  2. While I applaud the “vision of creating quality affordable modular housing that can be quickly fabricated in the wake of a disaster”, I’m wondering why we don’t build disaster-resistant homes (ie, insulated concrete forms), energy-efficient homes in the first place? Lubbock has had great success with ICFs in their affordable housing program. Why build and truck in an “affordable modular house” that will be blown away in the next hurricane?

    • One of the design criteria of the Texas Grow Homes are that that they can withstand wind loads of hurricanes. They are designed not to “blow away” in the next hurricane, but your point about the enhanced wind resistance of insulated concrete houses is well taken. It is a good solution. One thing we have learned is that there is not a single “right” approach. There are a number of different appropriate solutions given the particular circumstances.

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