Report reveals the need to protect federally assisted housing against the growing threat of natural hazards through better planning and stronger investments in resilience
Washington, D.C. – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) released today a new report, Natural Hazards and Federally Assisted Housing. The report analyzes the risks posed by natural hazards to federally assisted housing and its residents using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Risk Index (NRI). Among other findings, the report reveals that nearly a quarter of federally assisted homes are in census tracts with the greatest risk of negative impacts from natural hazards, and that heat waves are the most prevalent natural hazard threatening residents of federally assisted homes.
“The disproportionate exposure of federally assisted homes to heat risk raises important questions about both the siting and quality of these homes, as well as policies regarding utility allowances in federal housing programs,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Greater investments must be made to improve heat resilience in neighborhoods, such as by improving tree canopy coverage in communities where federally assisted homes already exist and siting new assisted housing in neighborhoods with less exposure to extreme heat. Congress must also pass the bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act, which includes key improvements to federal recovery policy that would benefit federally assisted homes.”
Accounting for approximately 10% of the nation’s rental housing, federally assisted housing is a limited but critical resource for the lowest-income renters, who disproportionately struggle with housing costs. Increasingly frequent and severe weather events pose a growing threat to federally assisted housing and its residents, who are often the least prepared to respond to and recover from disasters.
“Most federally assisted homes are in census tracts at high risk of losses for at least one of the 18 natural hazards we studied,” said PAHRC Manager of Research and Industry Intelligence Kelly McElwain. “Affordable housing organizations need resources to improve the resilience and energy efficiency of their properties as the threat of severe weather grows so that they can provide stability for families for generations to come.”
By analyzing natural hazard risks using FEMA’s NRI and data from the National Housing Preservation Database, the report finds that 24% of federally assisted homes are in census tracts with the greatest risk of negative impacts from natural hazards nationwide. In eight states, more than half of federally assisted homes are in census tracts with the greatest risk of negative impacts.
The report reveals important geographic differences in vulnerability. For example, federally assisted homes in rural areas are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of natural hazards than homes in urban areas: 30% of federally assisted rental homes in rural areas are in census tracts with the greatest risk for negative impacts, compared to 23% of federally assisted rental homes in urban areas.
Heat waves are the most prevalent hazard threatening residents of federally assisted homes, according to the report. Twenty-eight percent of federally assisted rental homes are in census tracts with the greatest risk of losses from extreme heat. Meanwhile, 25% of federally assisted rental homes are in census tracts with the greatest risk of losses from tornadoes, and 23% are in census tracts with the greatest risk of losses from riverine flooding.
The report makes several recommendations about how to better protect federally assisted housing from the impacts of natural hazards. In general, greater resources for mitigation and better recovery planning are needed at all levels of government. At the federal level, Congress should pass the bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act, which would permanently authorize the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program and thereby expedite the allocation of federal recovery funds while also prioritizing one-for-one repair or replacement of federally assisted housing impacted by disasters.
The report also identifies a need to improve energy efficiency and air conditioning in older federally assisted homes and to expand utility allowance policies in federal housing programs to cover air conditioning for all residents.
Read the report at: https://bit.ly/3slRnHc
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