Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Housing High Risk, Low-Income Neighborhoods

How do you build a sufficient number of safe homes capable of surviving natural disasters in low-income neighborhoods or Section-8 public housing?

That was a key question at a panel in Washington, DC Wednesday titled, “Housing: Innovative and Affordable Mitigation Solutions for Low-income Populations.” The panel was part of the “Safe Homes for All Leadership Forum” that was keynoted by U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. The Congressman unveiled legislation he is introducing at the Forum that will make protection of low-income Americans from hurricane damage a much greater priority.

“There will be another Katrina,” warned Bill Stallworth of the Hope Community Development Agency. Stallworth argued that pre-disaster mitigation is the key to both keeping families safe in their homes and helping to save money over the long term.

Miles Anderson of the Florida Emergency Management Agency agreed. Anderson argued “all the stakeholders need to work together” to make small changes in policy. Anderson held up Rebuild Northwest Florida as a potential model. Rebuild Northwest Florida was organized by a group of local business leaders with the support of community stakeholders in 2004 in response to Hurricane Ivan. The group originally focused on home repairs but has increasingly dedicated itself to pre-disaster mitigation.

But the group continues to run into challenges. It’s important that mitigation dollars get to local communities quicker because the local communities have a greater understanding of their specific needs, Anderson argued. “We can’t let the process get in the way of progress,” he said.

Craig Tillman of WeatherPredict Consulting, Inc. stressed new technologies that can protect homes from roof cover damage due to high winds. For example, existing buildings can be spared from hurricane winds by improving the aerodynamics of their roofs to prevent uplift forces from ripping them off.

All of the panelists stressed the need to bring all stakeholders. But who are the stakeholders? Almost everyone, according to Tillman. Renters and owners, insurers and local, federal and state government all have important motivations for leveraging mitigation to reduce risk of human life to the known and increasing risks of natural disasters.

This post was submitted by Safe Homes for All. NHC member partner WealtherPredict Consulting, Inc., is the primary organizer of the Safe Homes for All Forum being held today in Washington, DC. .

No comments: