Research Request: Options for Rapid Rehousing for Diaster Relief?


As part of your membership benefits, the Alliance staff provide research services for local government member submitted requests. Topics can range from pressing issues to emerging trends. This benefit is made possible through our partnership with Arizona State University Marvins Andrews Fellowship

Request Prompt:

“Interest in best practice research on rapid rehousing for post-disaster recoveries such as wildfires and earthquakes. We are especially interested in regional approaches as well as funding and programs that support these efforts. [Due to a recent fire] on our border leaving an impact and need for housing as those who lost their homes in the fire look into our region.” 

Background Research:


Rapid Rehousing on Natural Disaster Housing 

Emerging ideas and other innovative solutions:  

 The Three Stages: 




Shelter box:  

  • Natural disasters and conflicts never take days off, and neither do we. We’re always on the ground, working to help the most vulnerable, no matter how remote. We’re hammering pegs, tying knots, and building shelter right now. 



Navigating transitional housing: 

Temporary Houses for Post-Disaster and Social Emergency: 


Better Approaches Needed for Rapid Rehousing after Disasters: 


  • “The temporary shelters and upgrades in Haiti worked fairly well. But the new houses built in greenfield developments were not successful. Most of the homes had no water and were far away from jobs and other people. Sometimes, the title to the land was unclear. The experience reinforced an idea of gaining credence in humanitarian work: Aid projects are much more successful if they work with the local community instead of imposing design plans from the outside.” 

  • “In talking with residents of local communities after a natural disaster, aid workers have learned another important lesson: Even if people have lost their home, the housing may not be their first priority.” 


Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Program: 


  • Our product includes three related documents—the Policy Recommendations, the Technical Guide, and the Program Comparison Report. Each of these documents serves a different purpose and may be used and read by different audiences. 

  • TEMP-TO-PERM The DRH Program’s design and construction methodology is centered around a temporary-to-permanent housing strategy [temp-to-perm] to bridge the relief phase of a disaster with the recovery phase. The rapid response is achieved through the placement of a temporary, modular and incremental unit called the CORE. DRH’s CORE is a 12’x36’ prefabricated panelized temporary unit (conditioned), comprised of a living area, kitchenette, ADA-compliant bathroom, and sleeping area. The CORE unit is designed as a component of larger home design. Through building the predesigned additions on the CORE, the temporary one-bedroom space is transformed into permanent housing 




Habitat For Humanity: &  


As noted on the websites; 


  • Housing needs arising from natural disasters and emergency conflicts, including sustainable shelter and housing solutions. 

  • Education, training and partnership solutions to those in need of our relief services. 

  • Expertise in technical information, program design and implementation, and disaster response policies, protocols and procedures. 

  • Preventative support and information for disaster-prone areas. 

  • Year-round preparedness efforts to ensure we are ready when something happens. 


Disaster Risk Reduction and Response program, we have instituted the Pathways to Permanence strategy. This blueprint allows us to guide individuals and families through the necessary steps in taking back more control of their living situation following a tragedy, including erecting an emergency shelter, accessing or affirming land rights, improving a transitional shelter solution, defining next steps for a disaster-damaged house or expanding a new housing solution. 



Further Research and Resources  


The National Disaster Housing Strategy, Key highlights: 


First, “it describes how we as a Nation currently provide housing to those affected by disasters. It summarizes, for the first time in a single document, the many sheltering and housing efforts we have in the United States and the broad array of organizations that are involved in managing these programs. The Strategy also outlines the key principles and policies that guide the disaster housing process. “ 


“Second, and more importantly, the Strategy charts the new direction that our disaster housing efforts must take if we are to better meet the emergent needs of disaster victims and communities.” 



As a catastrophic event, Hurricane Katrina strained housing assistance capabilities and highlighted key challenges and gaps that can now guide the development of the Strategy.   


Lessons Learned: 

The experience of Katrina, along with other recent disasters both large and small, has taught us important lessons about disaster housing. Local, State, tribal, and Federal governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector have assessed the challenges and analyzed reports, government audits, and other documentation to identify lessons learned. Key lessons include the need for effective communication to manage expectations, proactive planning, and clear delineation of roles and responsibilities in disaster housing well before an incident occurs.  


We need to emphasize understanding and meeting individual and household needs and providing a full range of flexible and adaptable housing options, as well as the importance of the connection between housing and community-related services.  


National Response Framework and they have guided the design of new structures, plans, and disaster housing capabilities developed by jurisdictions across America.  


A national housing effort that engages all levels of government and the nonprofit and private sectors, so that when a disaster threatens or strikes our Nation we collectively meet the urgent housing needs of disaster victims and enable individuals, households, and communities to rebuild and restore their way of life.  


To achieve this vision, the Strategy provides a common framework to help integrate existing disaster housing efforts and focus our Nation on the following six goals:  


  1. Support individuals, households, and communities in returning to self-sufficiency as quickly as possible.  

  1. Affirm and fulfill fundamental disaster housing responsibilities and roles.  

  1. Increase our collective understanding and ability to meet the needs of disaster victims and affected communities. 

  1. Build capabilities to provide a broad range of flexible housing options, including sheltering, interim housing, and permanent housing.  

  1. Better integrate disaster housing assistance with related community support services and long-term recovery efforts.  

  1. Improve disaster housing planning to better recover from disasters, including catastrophic events 


Disaster housing responsibilities, capabilities, and resources across a diverse array of organizations that have varied missions and vested interests in providing disaster housing assistance. No single entity working independently has the means to address the full spectrum of disaster housing challenges. The range of disaster housing options and the span of disaster housing providers depend on the type of disaster, its severity, and the adversity of impact on the existing housing situation of those affected. Housing choices and decisions are tied to employment, access to transportation and commuting time, healthcare and daycare providers, education, and even proximity to grocery stores and pharmacies – all of which form the basic fabric of our communities. We must look across all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to identify key partners. It is important to understand who can bring essential capabilities and expertise to bear and include those organizations in the planning and development of disaster housing assistance programs well before an event occurs. In addition, States are all unique, with each facing a different range of risks and each having different levels of expertise, resources, and capabilities to address disaster housing.  


Local Government 

The senior local elected or appointed official (the mayor, city manager, county manager, or parish president) is responsible for ensuring the public safety and welfare of his or her residents. Senior local officials and their emergency managers build the foundation for an effective response and recovery. Local governments provide crucial leadership and coordinate support and resources from across the community through advance planning for a wide range of hazards based on their unique area. In developing local emergency plans, they organize and integrate their capabilities and resources with neighboring jurisdictions, the State, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and the Federal Government.  


Community-Based Efforts  

Communities can provide the momentum and resources to jump-start housing solutions. For example, Rebuild NW Florida was formed shortly after Hurricane Ivan devastated Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. The focus of this nonprofit group was to solicit donations and volunteers and manage the rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing units that were damaged in the hurricane. Rebuild NW Florida had already amassed a significant number of cash and material donations by the time the long-term community recovery team began their work. The group was focused on both Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and was headed by a former Speaker of the House of the Florida Legislature. This organization was an obvious choice as a champion for a significant portion of the housing projects that came out of the long term recovery process in these counties. (Reference: Long-Term Community Recovery Planning Process: A Self-Help Guide, December 2005, FEMA)  


How States Can Support Communities  

States work closely with their communities to provide additional support and fill crucial gaps. For example, the State of Louisiana established the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps to provide coordinated case management services. The Louisiana Family Recovery Corps strives to help families address the multiple needs by linking them to existing community-based services that help them move toward self-sufficiency. This may include job placement programs, helping to register children for schools, locating dispersed family members, or connecting families to necessary health services.  


Private-Sector Contributions  

Communities cannot effectively respond to or recover from disasters without strong cooperative partnerships with the private sector.  The private sector can bring a wealth of expertise and additional resources as described in the examples below. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the CocaCola Company and its bottling partners shipped more than 30 million bottles of filtered water, juice, sports drinks, and other beverages. These drinks were donated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, the Department of Defense, and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency during recovery operations. America's pharmaceutical research companies stepped up Katrina relief efforts, with donations soaring to more than $100 million. Bayer donated and shipped two tractor-trailer loads of materials, including employee-donated supplies, over-the counter products, and blood glucose monitors. In 2005, Merck aided hurricane-stricken communities by replacing prescription medicines for victims, hospitals, and clinics that lost medicines in the flood. Also, Merck provided more than $6.7 million in vaccines to assist relief efforts.  


NGO Help 

Nongovernmental Organizations Success in planning and providing disaster housing is built upon the strength and contributions that nongovernmental organizations consistently provide before, during, and after disasters.  


American Red Cross 

 The American Red Cross has a nationwide system for disaster planning, preparedness, community disaster education and mitigation, chapter readiness, and disaster response throughout the United States and its territories 


The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster  

(National VOAD) coordinates planning efforts by many voluntary organizations responding to the disaster.  



FEMA’s responsibilities for housing are described in the National Response Framework’s ESF #6 – Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services. Under ESF #6, FEMA provides leadership to coordinate and integrate Federal efforts associated with housing services. Housing support may include rental assistance, repairs, loan assistance, factory-built housing, permanent construction, and accessible housing. As part of this, FEMA 1) assists with the collection of data on housing resources potentially available in the proximity of the impacted area, 2) coordinates temporary housing resources needed to support any sheltering shortfall, and 3) addresses the short-term and long-term disaster-related housing needs of victims. 


Housing and Urban Development 

HUD’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development, and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination. As the Federal experts on providing permanent housing assistance for low-income families, HUD is uniquely positioned to assist those affected by a disaster. HUD’s national network of 4,000 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) provide 1.2 million units of subsidized housing and approximately 2 million housing vouchers to low-income families.  


HUD’s National Housing Locator (NHL) is a Web site that can assist individuals and families in finding rental housing in a Presidentially declared or local disaster.  

FEMA cannot meet its responsibilities or fulfill its role in disaster housing without the engaged assistance of other Federal departments and agencies who plan, prepare, and act to ensure the delivery of essential commodities and services that support State requirements.  


Access to Finances 

U.S. Small Business Administration The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created to aid, counsel, assist, and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our Nation. Through its Office of Disaster Assistance, SBA is responsible for providing affordable, timely, and accessible financial assistance to homeowners, renters, and businesses following a disaster. Financial assistance is available in the form of low-interest, longterm loans. SBA’s disaster loans are the primary form of Federal assistance for the repair and rebuilding of non-farm, private-sector disaster losses.  


Limit the displacement as response winds down. As disaster shelters close, make sure that every single occupant has appropriate housing. Ideally, housing is within the community, or as close as possible, so that people can reengage with their communities and get back to work, school, doctor appointments, and other critical life activities


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