NLIHC and DHRC Hold Convening to Reimagine Federal Disaster Housing Response and Recovery

NLIHC and the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of more than 850 local, state, and national organizations held a policy convening in Houston on October 28-30. The invitation-only convening consisted of approximately 70 stakeholders – most with direct on-the-ground experience in disaster recovery, as well as researchers and policy experts – who spent three days reimagining an improved federal disaster housing response and recovery system centered on the needs of the lowest-income survivors and their communities. NLIHC and its DHRC partners will now work to turn the recommendations generated in Houston into a comprehensive set of policy recommendations.

America’s disaster housing response and recovery system is broken and in need of major reform. When disasters strike, the lowest-income survivors – often people of color in historically segregated communities and other marginalized people – are usually the hardest hit, have the fewest resources, and face the longest, steepest path to recovery. Despite the clear need, federal efforts frequently leave these survivors without the assistance they need to get back on their feet, leave their communities less prepared for the next disaster, and worsen racial and income segregation. The current disaster housing response and recovery system exacerbates and reinforces racial, income, and accessibility inequities at each stage of response and recovery. NLIHC, Fair Share Housing Center of New Jersey, and other DHRC members dissected the flaws in the current system in a recent report, Fixing America’s Broken Disaster Housing Recovery System: Barriers to a Complete and Equitable Recovery, as a way to set the stage for the convening focused on creating an improved disaster response system.

The convening began with a mobile workshop bus tour highlighting some of the successes and continuing challenges in Houston two years after Hurricane Harvey. Organized by Texas Housers and the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) Coalition, participants heard from survivors and community organizers and toured a home being rehabbed by a neighborhood recovery group, a public housing complex that flooded during Hurricane Harvey, and a home built utilizing RAPIDO, an efficient temporary-to-permanent post-disaster housing solution. Following the mobile workshop, attendees viewed the premiere of a Revisioning Recovery film compilation by Working Films highlighting the current injustices, inadequate systems, and the solutions needed to equitably prepare for and respond to climate disasters. The screening was followed by a discussion featuring Maria Lopez-Nunez whose organizing work in the Iron Bound neighborhood of Newark New Jersey was covered in one of the films, The Sacrifice Zone. Working Films curated the film collection in partnership with California Rural Legal Assistance, the HOME Coalition, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, and NLIHC.

The meetings over the next two days consisted of in-depth discussions focused on reimagining an improved federal disaster housing response system. Separate sessions were held on the immediate response following a disaster; the provision of long-term housing recovery; and mitigation and resilience efforts.  Each session began with a panel discussion featuring stakeholders with direct experience in each area and policy experts, followed by in-depth small- and large-group sessions exploring new and more effective policies, systems, and structures. Every group and panel focused on similar themes such as addressing racial and economic equity, improving meaningful community involvement and power, strengthening pre-disaster planning, and driving federal investments to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. The ideas generated ranged from important technical fixes to overarching structural changes. At the conclusion of the convening, NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel synthesized the discussions into a broad, multi-layered framework for the many recommendations that were made, placing low-income marginalized people, racial equity, and equity for other vulnerable populations at the center. 

NLIHC will now work with DHRC partners to consolidate the recommendations generated at the convening into a comprehensive set of policy recommendations. The report, the second of two on Fixing America’s Broken Disaster Housing Recovery System series, will be released in 2020.

Read Fixing America’s Broken Disaster Housing Recovery System: Barriers to a Complete and Equitable Recovery at:

Explore tweets about the convening at: