Monday, August 28, 2017

How will hundreds of thousands probably displaced by the Texas flood be housed?


As the rest of the country prepares for the news about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, especially the flooding in the most populated areas (Harris County and Houston TX) from the stalling of the storm (the wind damage was, however traumatic, in a generally less populated area), it’s well to look at the costs and recovery from Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, as here.   

Shelters held up to 273000 people and FEMA trailers housed 114000.  600,000 households were displaced.  Insurance paid for about 30% of the claims.

Oprah Winfrey and Nate Berkus created a “sweat equity” community in Houston for those permanently displaced, but it hasn’t been reported yet how it fared in Harvey, link

Citylab has an analysis of the diaspora after Katrina.  40% wound up living in Dallas or Houston permanently, so some in Houston will be displaced a second time.  Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and some other communities will probably take on more this time, but the totality of this makes one wonder if much more radical relocation would happen.  The map in the article shows some minor resettlement from Virginia to New York City.  I seem to remember that a few hundred were brought to a development in NE Washington DC but I don’t find the details.


Airbnb has authorized hosts in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio to shelter residents for free.  It’s important to note that Airbnb allows shared rooms and apartments (as opposed to “entire”) where the owner is still in the unit., link.    This raises the broad question of public push to ask people in distant cities to host evacuees, even if not currently using Airbnb.  (That also begs a secondary legal question about old homes, lead and asbestos, and the like, which evacuees don’t have the luxury of being concerned about in practice.)  This reminds me of a similar question with immigrant asylum seekers and refugees, which I have covered on my blogs for the past year.  That has generally fizzled out somewhat, partly because of concern over legal liabilities in the Trump era.   The free service “Emergency BNB” also comes to mind.

By the way, I found the permissive tone of this article on under-the-table home sharing by legal advice site Nolo rather shocking.

If a lot of people have to resettle permanently, that could raise housing costs abruptly in other cities, especially in Texas. 

The Citylab question doesn’t address finding new jobs, or other financial dependency, which might be similar to refugees (although Americans have more legal rights).

One would think that, however distasteful to some, that mass use of mobile homes, placed on properties of the real homes as they are repaired, will be the most practical solution for many homeowners.  American manufacturers and truckers (and Walmart particularly) are good at handling this kind of volume quickly, much more efficiently that out-of-town church volunteers. 

That doesn't address the uninabitability post-flood of many garden apartment complexes, often two-story, in the building style popular in Texas (I lived in Dallas 1979-1988).  

This sort of discussion becomes necessary after other conceivable calamities, like large earthquakes (California) or even a North Korean nuclear strike in the future. 

I wrote about this on Wordpress after the North Korean flareup in early August, here

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