Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Locally-Led Post-Disaster Housing: Considerations and Recommendations

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently published draft guidance titled Planning Considerations: Disaster Housing to help jurisdictions utilize the traditional Six-Step Planning Process to develop or improve disaster housing plans.

While many local jurisdictions do not have disaster housing plans, they have always played a critical role in housing recovery. That role has only grown over time as the trend towards federally supported, state managed, and locally executed disaster recovery continues.

Shift to State and Locally-Led Housing Programs

Since Hurricane Katrina, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of federally funded and state/local-administered disaster housing programs:

Each of these developments illustrates the movement towards an increased role for state and local governments in disaster recovery.

Local governments are best equipped to utilize their community’s resources to support housing recovery:

  • Local governments understand their local needs and can work with state and federal stakeholders to identify available resources for addressing those needs.
  • Local organizations, such as housing authorities and not-for-profit organizations, are critical partners for long-term efforts to address affordable housing issues that may pre-date a disaster but become exacerbated with the loss of housing stock following a disaster.
  • Local stakeholders may also provide case management, supporting each survivor in navigating their individual pathway to recovery, including repair, reconstruction, or replacement of housing.

Disaster Housing Preparedness

The increasing responsibility of state and local governments in post-disaster housing is an opportunity for these governments to tailor housing solutions to their needs and expand their leadership role. To fully leverage this opportunity, state and local governments should consider employing some of the following strategies:

  • Develop a housing plan. Housing is one of the most challenging and critical elements of recovery. A housing plan should be a cornerstone of pre-disaster recovery planning.
  • Convene housing stakeholders as part of the planning process. Engaging stakeholders across sectors—such as developers, not-for-profit organizations, housing authorities, and government agencies—will help identify the community’s unique resources and challenges and build relationships that will be critical for housing recovery.
  • Address housing risks as part of the mitigation planning process. Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants, zoning, and building codes are among the tools that may be used to mitigate the risks to housing stock.
  • Recognize the link with affordable housing. Housing recovery and affordable housing are integrally linked. The most socially vulnerable households are the most likely to rely upon disaster housing assistance and the availability of affordable housing for a permanent housing solution.

Federal resources will continue to play a critical role in housing recovery after declared disasters, including short-term solutions such as Transitional Sheltering Assistance and Rental Assistance, interim solutions such as Continued Rental Assistance, Direct Lease, Multi-Family Lease and Repair, and direct housing with temporary housing units such as manufactured housing units and travel trailers under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program.

For states and local jurisdictions seeking to leverage these opportunities, Hagerty can provide expert advice from national post-disaster housing leaders so that your constituents receive unparalleled recovery service in the wake of a disaster. To learn more about Hagerty’s work in housing and elsewhere, visit our Preparedness home page.

James Ariail is the Director of Disaster Housing Services for Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty). James has more than 18 years of experience in emergency management, with a focus on recovery and mitigation programs. James has supported clients through all phases of disaster housing, from emergency sheltering through interim housing and Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program implementation. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his three children.