Austin case study: Postdisaster housing policy and low-income survivors

Several very smart people from the University of Texas and myself just had a paper published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research entitled, “Looking for Home after Katrina: Postdisaster Housing Policy and Low-Income Survivors”.

The authors are TxLIHIS Board member and UT Community and Regional Planning Department faculty member Dr. Elizabeth J. Mueller, former TxLIHIS staff member and current UT Social Work School Research Associate Dr. Holly Bell, UT Social Work School Research Associate Dr. Beth Brunsma Chang. The authors were kind enough to list me as an author as well.

Holly Bell and her colleagues at the UT School of Social Work followed a number of Katrina survivors with very low incomes
from the time they arrived in Austin immediately after being evacuated from New Orleans. The evacuees encountered serious problems resettling.

Here is the abstract…

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, more than a million Gulf Coast residents were forced to flee, nearly 250,000 to Texas. New Orleans lost more than half its population. Four years later, many low-income residents had yet to return. Through qualitative research with low-income survivors relocated to Austin, Texas, and the caseworkers and service providers who worked with them, this article describes the experiences of low-income households. Disaster housing policies were a particularly poor fit for the needs of low-income survivors and, combined with a preexisting shortage of affordable housing in Austin, impeded their recovery.

We came up with the following recommendations…

  1. screen households by income, and assess needs holistically;
  2. prioritize speedy return to home communities and social networks;
  3. prioritize rebuilding for low-income renters and homeowners;
  4. accommodate postdisaster household reformation;
  5. prioritize coordination among agencies and service providers; and
  6. prioritize transit access.

In addition, we offer suggestions for further research to confirm the importance of these findings in other settings and to assess recovery in different settings.

The online version of this article can be found at: http://jpe.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/07/12/0739456X11413602 . But be aware it costs $25 to download. (None of it goes to us).