After rescuingSeeSeeHousing recovery ended and civilian and formal emergency responders returned home, residents across the state began the usually long recovery process. Gutted but unrepaired homes abutted properties with FEMA trailers and repairs underway throughout parts of East Baton Rouge Parish in December 2017, roughly 16 months following the flood. Other parts of the parish looked as though a 500-year flood event never happened, with homes completely rebuilt. Recovery, especially housing recovery, is the most understudied and misunderstood stage of a disaster (Rubin 2009). Recovery is uneven across neighborhoods and within neighborhoods, which may seem random, but research shows some predictable patterns (Hamideh and Rongerude 2018; Pais and Elliott 2008; Phillips et al. 2010). Affordable housing especially affordable rental housingSeeSeeRental housing
(that which costs no more than 30% of a household’s income, including utilities (HUD 2018)) is often damaged the most during disasters, making existing affordable housing crises much worse (Tulane School of Architecture 2007). Yet, little research or recovery programs address housing affordability issues or housing tenure after floods (Lee and Zandt 2018).
Hurricane Katrina showed that social stratification across class and race greatly affected return and recovery of housing. Those who returned to their previous homes the soonest following Hurricane Katrina were predominantly white, older, better educated, and homeowners and sustained less damage to their property compared to those who were displaced for longer periods of time or permanently displaced (Fussell et al. 2010). Even with equivalent amounts of housing damage, wealthier individuals, especially homeowners with insurance, returned more quickly. Higher socioeconomic status entails the financial resources to rebuild and also the cultural knowledge to maneuver the complicated US disaster aid process and political and symbolic capital to garner rebuilding assistance (Finch et al. 2010).
These disparate housing recovery outcomes from Hurricane Katrina are not unique. Social vulnerability to disasters describes how “social inequalities and historic patterns of social relations” generate differential disaster impacts and recovery trajectories (Phillips and Fordham 2010, p. 4). When disaster impacts are filtered through the US social structure of race, class, gender, nationality, and disability, for example, they create “multiple and highly unequal processes of resettlement” (Fussell and Elliott 2009, p. 389). Evidence from numerous disasters across the US and the world shows that social vulnerability affects population return and housing recovery following disasters (Thomas et al. 2013; Peacock et al. 1997, 2014; Van Zandt et al. 2012).
highlights how preexisting inequalities and existing social patterns, such as the current housing affordability crisis and declining homeownership rates, create disparate disaster effects across population groups. The population that often recovers the quickest from disasters – homeowners with insurance – is declining nationwide. The Great Recession starting in 2008 began a decline in US homeownership to a 50-year low (Rohe 2017). Consequently, renting is rising across all income groups, to nearly 40% of the US population (Table 10.3). The corresponding increase in renters quickly outpaced the amount of available rental housing and drove up rental costs. In 2011, for example, there was a shortfall of 4.8 million rental units that would be affordable to persons making less than about $19,000 (Fernald 2013). Recent analysis by Freddie Mac (a federal mortgage agency) shows that newly constructed rental units, for example, are serving a greater proportion of higher-income renters than they were in 2010 (Freddie Mac 2017), even though nearly half of all current renters make less than $30,000 a year (Fernald 2013).
The affordable housingSeeSeeAffordable housing
crisis is worsened by disasters in several ways. First, affordable housing, both owned and rented, often receives the most damage in disasters because it is usually located in more hazardous areas, such as floodplains, is of lower quality that doesn’t withstand disaster impacts, and often lacks the mitigation upgrades to prevent disaster damage (Fothergill and Peek 2004; Peacock et al. 2018). Housing that is affordable to the lowest-income renters, furthermore, is often more than 50 years old and more likely to be of inadequate quality according to today’s building standards (Fernald 2013).
Second, tenants and landlords
alike have fewer incentives to undertake mitigation that would prevent disaster damage (Burby et al. 2003). Renters are dependent upon their landlords’ permission to reoccupy their previous housing, which heightens the risk of displacement (McCarthy et al. 2001; Burby et al. 2003; Morrow 1999; Fussell and Harris, 2014). Landlords may not rebuild or may rebuild their properties to higher market rates (Comerio 1998). Zhang and Peacock (2009) and Peacock et al. (2014) found that rental housing came back the slowest following Hurricanes Andrew in Florida (1992) and Ike in Texas (2008).
Third, rental rates and housing costs rise due to reduced supply of affordable housing. In Baton Rouge, for example, fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased from $728 to $789 between 2016 and 2018 (Grueskin 2018a; Grueskin 2018b). Disasters ignite “recovery machines” in which pro-economic growth coalitions take advantage of recovery funding to rebuild neighborhoods with higher priced housing and amenities. These efforts make it more difficult for lower-income survivors to acquire post-disaster housing (Elliott and Pais 2010; Gotham and Greenberg 2014). Political will and local funding to support fair and affordable housing and counter the recovery machine are often lacking (Weil 2009). Galveston, Texas, following Hurricane Ike, and New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, both made changes to their public housing structures and availability, which significantly reduced the number of affordable units (Tulane School of Architecture 2007; Walters 2018). Four large housing projects in New Orleans, for example, were replaced by mixed-income housing therefore reducing the number of fully subsidized units (Henrici et al. 2010). Evidence from longitudinal research following Hurricane Katrina showed that low-income African American mothers living in subsidized public housing were the least likely to return to their same housing, followed by renters (Fussell and Harris 2014). In East Baton Rouge Parish, 753 families using Section 8 public housing vouchers were flooded in the August 2016 floods. About 42% of those were unable to locate another unit to use their voucher in the 6 months after the flood (Jones 2017). Renters, beyond having lower income on average, also are less likely than homeowners to have various financial investments, such as retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks, certificates of deposit, or savings bonds that can be useful in crises to fund new housing options (Fernald 2013).
Fourth, and importantly, recovery programs through the government or nonprofits are overwhelmingly targeted at owner-occupied housing (Comerio 1997; GAO 2010). Louisiana, for example, allowed eligible homeowners of any income level to receive 100% reimbursement for repairs, providing an additional $110 million to homeowners from their Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (Grueskin 2018b). Nonprofits that also address recovery housing often limit their programs to homeowners. For example, the Housing First Alliance of the Capital Area is a collaboration of about 30 local nonprofits that formed following the 2016 Louisiana Floods to address housing issues. They concentrated on restoring single-family homes first (Gallo 2017a; Gallo 2017b). Case studies have shown that governments lack clear policy strategies to address renters or rental housing issues in contrast to homeowner programs, and rental programs implemented are often ad hoc (Mukherji 2015). Government options attempted include rental subsidies or vouchers to renters to find their own housing elsewhere, temporary housing, subsidized public housing, economic incentives to rental property owners to rebuild, and homeownership programs. All these programs are often slow to begin following disaster. The “Road Home” program following Hurricane Katrina that supported owners of rental property to rebuild began 2 years after the disaster (GAO 2010). Some programs even have unintended (or intended) consequences of spatially isolating low-income populations from others, as occurred in Japan following the 1995 earthquake (Hirayama 2000), or increasing racial and economic segregation, such as following Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, these programs often do not address the long-term, exacerbated issue of the lack of affordable housing. As noted by Gotham (2008), many market-centered recovery programs lack coherency and sustainability and may intensify existing housing issues.
Providing or developing affordable housing, especially rental housing, is a growing post-disaster challenge for jurisdictions large and small across the country. This housing issue corresponds with a variety of other social differences that lead to heightened vulnerability to disaster (Lee and Zandt 2018). Renters, for example, are more likely than owners to be younger, unmarried, and racial minorities (due in part to discriminatory mortgage lending practices) and have lower overall incomes. Renters also are less likely to have social capital connections important to disaster recovery, have lower place attachment, and, importantly, are less politically engaged to demand attention to post-disaster needs (Aldrich and Meyer 2015; Lee and Zandt 2018).
Louisiana attempted new and expanded options following the 2016 floods to address the affordable housing concerns, including rentals. State officials specifically developed programs to address affordable housing, targeting rental housing and manufactured homes
. To understand the need for affordable housing, Table 10.3 depicts total housing units and housing types for the US and for the 22 parishes that received individual assistance from FEMA (i.e., locations where households could apply for direct support from FEMA for housing). These parishes had higher percentages than the US average of single-family detached homes, mobile homes, and boat/RV/van housing. Nine of the 22 parishes receiving individual assistance from FEMA had higher rates of nontraditional housing such as boat, RV, or vans than the national rate. Multifamily units are less common in these parishes than in the nation as a whole, except for East Baton Rouge Parish, where 1/3 of housing units were in multifamily structures. The most striking statistic is the high rates of mobile home occupancy in the affected parishes. All parishes except East Baton Rouge exceeded the national rate of mobile home occupancy, a common type of affordable housing that is understudied, but extremely vulnerable, in disaster. The percent of all housing that was mobile homes ranged from 3.1% in East Baton Rouge Parish to 38.1% in St. Helena Parish, with an average of 1/5 of all housing in these parishes being mobile homes.
The 2016 flooding impacted over 28,000 rental households, of which 17,000 were very low income (Louisiana Office of the Governor 2016). The amount of rental housing needs across the affected parishes varied. Table 10.4 shows home ownership and housing costs compared to the US averages. Only East Baton Rouge Parish had a higher percent of renters than the US average, with 41% of the parish population renting their housing. Owner-occupied housing ranged from 59% in East Baton Rouge Parish to 82% in St. Helena Parish. Owning a home without a mortgage was much more common in these parishes than the US, with an average of 50% of parish homeowners living without a mortgage. Mortgages are important to understanding flood disaster recovery specifically because a mortgage requires insurance and flood insurance as a condition of the home loan if that loan is federally sponsored and located in a floodplain (FEMA 2018). Persons without a mortgage are able to let their homeowner’s and flood insurance lapse, making them more at risk of being unable to rebuild on their own.
Renting is seeing a resurgence across the country across income categories, but in most parts of the country, it is still predominantly undertaken by low-income households (Fernald 2013). The affordability standard is 30% or less of income spent on housing costs (HUD 2018). Comparing housing costs across renters, homeowners with a mortgage and homeowners without a mortgage, a much larger percent of renters nationwide spend over 35% of their monthly income on housing costs (Fernald 2013). Five of the affected parishes had a higher percent of their renters with cost burdens than the national average.
The Louisiana Housing Corporation began with two programs targeted at owners of rental properties affected by the floods of 2016, which were funded through CDBG-DR from HUD. Some local governments have similar programs (Hardy 2017). Awardees for both programs must meet various affordability requirements (http://restore.la.gov/program-detailstimeline/). These programs include both loans (which may be entirely forgivable) and grants, depending on the applicant qualifications (Gallo 2017b). Landlords must qualify for the state program and have a bank that is willing to extend construction financing. The programs following Hurricane Katrina faced trouble due to the financial crisis of 2008, during which banks were unwilling to provide loans to landlords to qualify for the rebuilding support (Gallo 2017b). The state established agreements with three banks before the program began to counter some of these issues. To counter other problems experienced with the “Road Home” program
following Hurricane Katrina, the flood recovery programs for the 2016 floods are run by the Louisiana Housing Corporation (a state agency created in 2011) rather than by contractors like the “Road Home” program (Gallo 2017b).
One program, the Multifamily Gap Program
, offered zero-interest loan gap financing to multi-housing (at least 20 units) of both affordable and market rate housing (http://restore.la.gov/multifamily-gap-program/). The program started with $38.25 million for developers or housing authorities (Gallo 2017b). Agencies involved in public housing or affordable housing could receive up to $40,000 per flooded unit, and market rate rental owners could receive up to $65,000 per flooded unit. All who accepted the funds must maintain the affordability requirements for at least 5 years after renovation. This program, as of September 2018, had distributed funds totaling $1.5 million including two public housing authorities and two market rate complexes that were transitioning to affordable housing (Grueskin 2017).
A second program targeted landlords of smaller multifamily housing with seven or fewer units. The Neighborhood Landlord Rental Program provided financial assistance in taking out a loan for rebuild, repair, or new construction. If applicants comply fully, the “loan” may be completely forgiven. The program aimed to support recovery of 1,200–1,500 rental units across the state with original allocation of $36 million (Gallo 2017a; Gallo 2017b). The program specifically required landlords to keep the properties affordable for 5 years following renovation (Gallo 2017b). Nonprofits that build affordable housing can apply to rebuild flooded housing or build new affordable housing. For-profit landlords could only apply to repair flooded housing (Gallo 2017b). This program, as of September 2018, had allocated almost $36 million covering 340 units.
A third program was added in 2018 called The Piggyback 2018 program
. The multifamily program received less interest than expected, and it was assumed to be so because large multiunit facilities may have had insurance. The five million dollars left in this program was transferred to the more popular Neighborhood Landlord Program. A larger amount ($17.7 million) was transferred to the Piggyback program for developers who are already using low-income housing credits to build mixed-income complexes (Grueskin 2017). This program requires more than half of the development be “affordable” to those making 80% or less of the area’s median income and remain at below market rate rents for 35 years (much longer than the other two programs). Five percent of the units must be affordable to those with chronic health conditions or very low incomes. It was expected to create 500 affordable units by the definition of 80% or less of the area median income. Priority goes to parishes that were flooded in 2016 and have high rent costs relative to income. East Baton Rouge Parish, which has the most rental properties of the affected parishes, meets both requirements. The Louisiana Housing Corporation had 1804 units in their tax credit-financed portfolio damaged by the August 2016 floods. Of those, about half (974) were repaired in the first 16 months of post-flood. As of September 2018, 870 units
were to begin construction in early 2019.
Another program, the Baton Rouge Rebuilds Program
, provides forgivable loans for repair and reconstruction of rental housing also funded by HUD. Its three main goals are (Louisiana Housing Corporation 2017):
Eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods impacted by the floods
Repair damaged rental housing stock that will be made available at affordable rental rates for low-income households
Increase the available rental stock in flood-damaged East Baton Rouge
The program is available to owners of rental property located in the city of Baton Rouge or unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish at the time of the flood, who are in good standing with various housing programs. Priority was given to low- to moderate-income applicants who are under 120% of area median income. One-person households making less than $57,120 and four-person households making less than $81,480 would receive priority, for example. This program targets the specific types of rental housing common to the area. Site-built, modular, and manufactured housing were all eligible, a unique aspect to this program. Also, the applications were aimed for smaller rental housing developments, specifically seven or fewer units. The rental properties can be located in Special Flood Hazard Areas or not, which addresses the extreme impacts of this disaster
The above programs targeted owners of rental properties. As noted, these programs are slowly building or repairing some affordable housing units, many taking over 2 years to begin construction. What do renters do in the meantime? Some programs aimed to support displaced renters find or afford housing. Rebuild Livingston
, for example, is a nonprofit supporting displaced renters through a Rapid Re-Housing program funded also by HUD’s CDBG (Grueskin 2018a; Grueskin 2018b). The targeted population was specifically renters still living in FEMA-manufactured homes. Rebuild Livingston managed rental vouchers and case management to help those households find new rental housing. The program, though, already had a waiting list in early 2018 even as 180 renter households remained in FEMA-supplied housing. The main issue remains that there is not enough affordable housing for renters to use their rental voucher. Renters face tough decisions of taking higher cost units with the help of the voucher, but knowing that when the voucher ends in a year, they will have to move again. As of January 2018, 653 households received these vouchers, and 417 used the vouchers (Grueskin 2018a; Grueskin 2018b). By September 2018, 1217 households had applied, 151 had completed the program, and 661 were in leased housing. The rest were waiting to find affordable homes. Without affordable units, voucher programs may not be useful or may result in temporary housing of displaced low-income renters in unaffordable units.