Recovery of Multifamily Housing and Duplexes Lags Behind Single-Family Homes after Disasters

A study published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction examines the long-term recovery trajectories of different types of housing in the wake of Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX. The article, “Housing Type Matters for Pace of Recovery: Evidence from Hurricane Ike,” finds that the recovery of multifamily housing and duplex homes lagged behind single-family homes. The authors conclude that disaster recovery policies and programs should specifically address housing type in addition to the extent of damage or unmet financial needs for housing recovery.

The authors utilized parcel-level tax assessment data in Galveston, Texas from 2008 (the year of Hurricane Ike) through 2015 to track changes in assessed improvement values over time as an indicator for damage and recovery. Improvement values reflect the tax-assessed value of a structure on a given parcel independent of the value of the land. The authors also used data from the American Community Survey to estimate the impact of neighborhood characteristics like income and racial composition on recovery.

In line with prior research about recovery and housing types, the authors found that damaged single-family housing recovered more quickly than damaged duplex or multifamily housing. Among homes that sustained damage, 16% of single-family homes, 43% of multifamily homes, and 60% of duplexes had failed to recover their pre-storm value by the seventh year of the recovery. Rental properties were also slower than owner-occupied homes to recover.

Disparities in recovery trajectories were more closely associated with housing type, tenure, and neighborhood income than with neighborhood racial or ethnic composition. The absence of disparities attributable to neighborhood racial composition might be explained by the authors’ observation that vacancy and abandonment and sales all appeared to be lower in neighborhoods with greater concentrations of minority population. Lower-income, minority homeowners might have been more likely to stay in their homes despite damage and slowly repair them, because they lacked other options.

Other research has found multifamily homes are less likely to be insured and less likely to benefit from recovery resources, suggesting some potential reasons why recovery trajectories might vary by housing type. Disaster housing recovery policies and programs should, therefore, take into account housing types.

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