Disaster Housing Strategies and Resources

Disaster Housing Presentation Slides
Presenter(s) - Bob Wold and Iain Hyde

With so many sessions to attend, it was hard to choose which one to cover. However, given the potential need and impact of housing across a wide section of emergency management, the messaging resources and current state-level planning efforts underway to address disaster housing seemed like a pressing issue widely applicable.

Providing interim and permanent housing resources to disaster survivors is at the heart of community recovery efforts following a disaster. This session addresses disagree housing typically available and resources to support local and state disaster housing strategies. The session also addressed housing task forces and development of a toolbox of resources that can be implemented when needed. Bob Wold and Iain Hyde from The Colorado Division of Emergency Managements Mitigation Office provided the briefing.

Wold started by providing an overview of the State Disaster Housing Task Force and described his role in facilitating that group, along with the Division of Housing of the Department of Local Affairs and associated Federal and nonprofit partners on that Task Force.

Disaster housing is a key part of the recovery process. Wold reviewed the wide range of issues that must be considered cultural, population density, each will affect local decisions on response planning. Regardless, in most communities, the locally available rental resources will provide the bulk of short term available housing options. Disasters inevitably produce a large need for affordable housing. While manufactured housing such as under federal assistance programs, as another option, they should be considered recognizing the challenge of putting these in place in a community.

It is important to keep in mind that housing will not always be an ideal situation. Being able to move into an apartment or temporary housing location helps survivors establish stability's they begin the process of recovery and rebuilding. The optimal solution is to move people from shelters back into their homes, skipping interim housing. Small scale disasters generally produce short term needs while repairs to structures are made. The nature and scale of the disaster will drive the type of housing that best meets the needs of the affected population.

Every community planner needs to take a look at the local hazards, available options and think creatively when considering how to develop a housing response plan. Proximity to schools employment, public transportation, health care, former neighborhoods, family and friends will all be important considerations.

Urgency to get things back to normal will be powerful, but planners must take advantage of the small window of opportunity to consider and introduce mitigation measures, engage in sound urban planning, revisit building codes, and devise strategies with economic goals in mind.

Sheltering, interim and permanent housing are the three types of housing. The most often faced needs in Colorado fall into the sheltering category. Red Cross and local government generally fields theses capabilities. While people are in shelters during a situation where there are interim needs, there are a number of programs available to assist in housing repairs, which local housing authorities and state housing officials will help link requests to needs.

There are potential grants available to communities to request this assistance in the event of a disaster. Potential funding sources include Hazard Mitigation Grants, Flood Mitigation, Repetitive Flood, Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Community Development Block Grants may all be sources on funding in the event of a disaster. Most of this assistance is contingent upon the presence of a Hazard Mitigation Plan at the local level. DEM Mitigation Office in Colorado is the point of contact for local governments to ensure their hazard mitigation plans are in place and in a position to ensure qualification for housing assistance.

While there have been on average 50 declarations of disaster per year, in most cases, federal help is neither requested nor provided. Rental properties are generally the first source and case officers must be aware of resources available for disabled residents. Manufactured housing, sometimes called Katrina Cottages, are another option. Assistance is available through Red Cross and as well as TANF, which is housing a human services temporary assistance for needy families. HUD community block development grants and rural development disaster loans and grants from the US Department of agriculture are other options, but there are eligibility requirements related to income for federal programs. Again, local public housing officials and state officials will be the first line of organizing this kind of assistance.

One of the things that mitigation officials have seen disaster after disaster is that people are underinsured. State officials urged that emergency managers and residents check their level of insurance coverage prior to a disaster. Insurance remains the best preparedness step an owner can take to lessen the impact of a disaster.

Wold reviewed the Colorado experience in providing horsing assistance to those displaced by Katrina, citing that bringing the Red Cross early into the sheltering process and ensuring that memorandums of understanding with volunteer organizations are in place is key to a smooth process. Fire wise Programs, insurance are all key to individual mitigation efforts. Remember that flood insurance may not be a part of your plan so check!

As the State works this issue, there is a safety net site is being stablished ton assist local officials at http://coloradohousingsearch.com. In the event of a disaster, state and local officials will have a central resource to employ to ensure requests are linked with need in accordance with fair housing act and with protections both for those seeking assistance and providing it in a centrally accessible database for case officers across the state. As these plans are finalized, there will be much more provided to emergency managers on this toolkit.