Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Cheaper Houses for Disaster Victims

If your house gets blown or washed away in a flood, hurricane or tornado, it would be nice to be back into a real home within a short period of time, living on your land instead of in a FEMA trailer.

There's a nice article from Emergency Management, captured from the Houston Chronicle Project Aims to Get Disaster Victims into Homes Within Days
The nation's top housing official recently toured the core of a house in Brownsville that holds the promise of returning people quickly to their homes after a major disaster. What he didn't know was that it had been partially put up in an afternoon by a group of unskilled teenagers.

The house inspected Monday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is part of a $2 million pilot project that envisions the construction of less-expensive, structurally sound housing within days of a disaster instead of years.
The biggest hurdle to rebuilding housing after a disaster is the snarl of government red tape — federal, state and local. In Texas, counties and cities are ultimately responsible and they usually have no experience in rebuilding housing after disasters, said John Henneberger, the co-director of the Texas Low Income Information Housing Service.

"Historically," Henneberger said, "it has not worked as efficiently as it should on any level."

The grain of an idea for the approach taken in the Rio Grande Valley sprang from Henneberger's experience assisting in the rebuilding of low-income housing after Hurricane Rita hit the Beaumont area in 2005. Those ideas this year won him a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, known as the genius award.
Mr. Henneberger has been referred to as the Scourge of FEMA Trailers:
Mr. Henneberger, who is co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, has been involved in helping low-income people get housing after numerous natural disasters that have destroyed property in Texas. He does so by working with, and sometimes bringing legal action against, state and local governments charged with distributing aid.

The MacArthur Foundation, in its write-up of the award, said Mr. Henneberger had “created a new paradigm for post-disaster rebuilding” that greatly improved the efficiency of the funding pipeline so emergency housing could be built faster.

The Foundation also cited a design competition that Mr. Henneberger organized that challenged 83 architecture teams to design a low-cost home with “temporary to permanent potential” for storm victims. The parameters were that the houses have 3 bedrooms, cost less than $65,000 to build and are able to be built in six weeks or less. There were five winning designs, and $20 million in state recovery funds were used to build homes using three of them in 2009. There are currently 20 under construction in the Rio Grande Valley.
Getting FEMA out of the emergency housing business is a good thing.

Especially since the poor and un/under-insured are at the greatest risk of ending up as long term wards of the government without real property to call their own.

See info at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. More here:
The VISTAs then developed and designed a deployment strategy and prototype design. The deployment strategy minimizes time between disaster and shelter construction by using local materials and labor sources. It stimulates the local economy by creating jobs in construction of the prototype “core” home. It teaches local residents job skills in construction and disaster recovery response. The prototype increases the cultural sensitivity of disaster response housing by engaging local residents in regional disaster response planning. Finally, this housing model jumpstarts a permanent rebuilding process by providing a “core” shelter that can be expanded and improved by residents with the assistance of future design consultations.
Over two weeks, the VISTA team built a full scale prototype “core” for Engineering & Humanity Week at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. The prototype has now been moved to a permanent site in Dolphin Heights, a predominantly low-income neighborhood in Dallas, and will be reconfigured as affordable rental housing. Currently, the prototype and deployment process are ready for large-scale manufacture in the event of a natural disaster.

Really interesting work out of Texas

Still, as noted in the part about the VISTA home, the key is "disaster response planning." Having a plan is good thing.

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