Washington, D.C. – Today, Floridians are just beginning to assess the terrible damage caused by one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the region in years. The early images and stories of destruction are heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with everyone in the path of this catastrophic storm, and with those working to save lives amid the disaster.
With widespread displacement and property damage, the path to a complete and just recovery will be long and arduous. Nearly 5 million people live in the path already hit by Hurricane Ian. Several hard-hit counties have poverty rates higher than the national average; in some, almost a third of the population lives below the poverty line. In the counties hit by Hurricane Ian, more than 281,000 households live in manufactured housing, which is especially vulnerable to disasters, and another 60,000 households live in subsidized housing.
Hurricane Ian comes in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, which impacted Puerto Rico just two weeks ago. That storm poured 30 inches of rain on the island, destroying or damaging thousands of homes and knocking out power and water service to the entire island. Puerto Ricans are still reeling from the damage and displacement caused by Hurricane Maria, and from a delayed, patchwork recovery. Forty percent of residents are without power, 212,000 are without access to clean running water, and many hospitals have yet to reopen.
After the immediate response and recovery work is finished, the equally difficult and much longer-term work to rebuild will begin in Puerto Rico and Florida, just as it continues in Louisiana, Texas, California, and Kentucky. NLIHC is committed to working with our state and local partners in all impacted communities, and with national and other allies, to achieve an equitable and complete housing recovery that prioritizes the needs of the lowest-income and most marginalized people, including renters and people experiencing homelessness.
NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition includes nearly 850 local, state, and national organizations, and impacted people, many with extensive experience in disaster housing relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts undertaken in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Maria, and Michael, as well as other major disasters. The DHRC stands ready to work with low-income survivors and communities impacted by Hurricanes Fiona and Ian. Our principles for an equitable recovery will guide our work as we advocate for Congress to advance our top disaster housing recovery and rebuilding priorities.
This work is critical. Disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, just as inequality continues to widen and our nation’s housing crisis grows worse. The lowest-income people and communities are consistently the hardest hit by disasters. They are least financially able to evacuate prior to a storm and, without dedicated advocacy on their behalf, most are likely to be left behind in the recovery and rebuilding process. Together, we must ensure that low-income people can access the housing resources they need to recover and rebuild in ways that alleviate the affordable housing crisis and withstand future storms.
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