NLIHC and the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) held a two-part webinar series on natural hazards and the federally assisted housing stock. The second webinar, “Disaster Planning and Mitigation for Affordable Housing Organizations,” was held on September 22. Watch the recording of the first webinar, “Assessing Vulnerability to Disaster in the Federally Assisted Housing Stock,” and access the presentation slides. A recording of the second webinar will be available soon.
Take Action! Sign your organization on to a letter supporting the bipartisan “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act” and help ensure every disaster survivor receives the assistance they need to fully recover. Read NLIHC’s fact sheet on the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. Add your organization to a growing list of groups supporting this important bill!
President Biden announced on September 20 new efforts the administration will take to address extreme heat, which disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities and is now the leading weather-related killer in America. The administration is mobilizing an all-of-government effort to protect workers, children, seniors, and at-risk communities from extreme heat. The White House fact sheet does not specifically mention people experiencing homelessness, who are at high risk for extreme heat exposure and its dangerous health effects.
As part of the new effort, the administration will direct LIHEAP resources to address extreme heat, and the EPA will leverage American Rescue Plan funding to provide technical assistance for developing neighborhood cooling centers within existing public school facilities. Additionally, the administration says it is working to understand disproportionate heat impacts and develop targeted solutions for disadvantaged communities, including through two new resources: 1) an EPA report on “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States,” and 2) the USDA Forest Service’s report on “Climate Adaptation Actions for Urban Forests and Human Health.” Some communities are disproportionately impacted by extreme heat due to longstanding economic and racial injustices and ongoing inequities. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as people with low incomes, are more likely to live in areas with growing heat impacts and have less access to air conditioning and other critical resources. Learn more about the “heat island effect.” The Washington Post discusses the EPA report, which details how racial minorities in the U.S. will be disproportionately harmed by climate change.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD launched a new Disaster Recovery Tools and Templates Library specifically designed for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) and CDBG Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) grantees. The library is a comprehensive, centralized site where grantees and the public can access tools, templates, and training materials.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
HHS issued guidance in July 2021 for the Low-Income Home Emergency Assistance Program (LIHEAP), providing flexible options for states, territories, and tribes to adjust LIHEAP programs to address extreme heat. HHS highlights that extreme weather disproportionately impacts communities of color, low-income households, and other at-risk populations, including aging adults that are more likely to live in “urban heat islands” and are often unable to afford adequate air conditioning.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA announced that the U.S. experienced a dangerously hot summer this year, breaking records set during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information’s monthly report states that August was the deadliest month for flooding across the country since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Across the country, governors of both parties are urging Congress to ensure disaster resilience measures are included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Pointing to damage from Hurricane Ida, officials highlight the need for flood mitigation, enhanced building construction, fire prevention and water conservation, bolstering the electrical grid, and other resilience measures.
Roughly 13,000 homes in Louisiana’s Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes were destroyed by Hurricane Ida. With no other options for shelter, many displaced residents have been sleeping in tents. Ida has exacerbated the existing affordable housing crisis for tens of thousands of families in southeast Louisiana.
The Advocate reports that one year after Hurricane Laura, blue tarps still cover many roofs in Lake Charles, and public housing and apartment complexes remain vacant after residents were evicted for repairs. According to the Lake Charles Housing Authority, the city’s public housing stock and Section 8 units decreased by 40% due to storm damage, impacting nearly 1,000 homes. State and local officials hope they will finally be able to address some of the region’s long-term recovery needs if Congress approves federal disaster aid in the coming weeks. Officials must now develop plans for how to spend the funds effectively, particularly how to address the affordable housing crisis that has been exacerbated by the multiple disasters.
The World reports that in the wake of Hurricane Ida, communities in the Louisiana region known as “Cancer Alley” have been facing demolished homes, lack of electricity, and air and water that are even more polluted than usual. Black residents in these Louisiana communities have been fighting for environmental justice for years, and Hurricane Ida has made their work more difficult. “The chemical plants are really having a ball with this hurricane…they think no one is watching them right now, so they’re polluting us even more on top of the hurricane,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James, an organization that advocates for racial and environmental justice in St. James, Louisiana.
WWL-TV says HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge pledged to address racial inequities in federal disaster recovery programs on September 17 when she toured federally assisted senior housing facilities impacted by Hurricane Ida. Highlighting inequities that emerged after Hurricane Katrina through the inherently discriminatory Louisiana Road Home Program, civil rights organizations are urging state and local officials to develop equitable recovery plans.
NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) is a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to secure disaster recovery funding and key reforms to ensure every survivor, including those with the lowest incomes and those most marginalized, receives the assistance they need to fully recover and ensure that their communities can withstand future disasters. Read the DHRC’s full list of priorities here.
To find out more and get involved with the effort to approve disaster recovery funding and pass DHRC-supported reforms, join our Disaster Recovery Working Group that meets weekly on Tuesdays at 3 pm ET. If you haven’t joined already, become a member of the DHRC!