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Bring community voices into disaster rebuilding and infrastructure planning []


After wildfires and hurricanes ravaged the country last year, we saw devastating human impact, but also soon came to understand the huge financial costs to communities needing to rebuild. Reports are calling 2017 the most costly disaster year on record, with estimates of over $306 billion in damage to housing, transit, infrastructure and businesses. We know that a $1 investment of federal funds in resilient infrastructure can yield $6 in savings, and we also know that community voice is necessary to building more resilient infrastructure for the future. With Congress including $90 billion for post-disaster relief in their recent budget deal and broader federal infrastructure plans being considered, this is an important moment to consider how disaster relief funding and long-term infrastructure investments will reshape communities. We must learn from how past recovery efforts have contributed to the inequalities among neighborhoods and how we can incorporate community voices in post-disaster reconstruction.

Research has shown that immigrants, communities of color, low-income individuals, and people who live in high-density housing are more likely to suffer when disasters hit. Low-income families are more likely to live in flood-prone areas with insufficient infrastructure and inadequate flood control protections (as we saw clearly during Hurricane Katrina), and their impacts are often left out of the calculation of total damage costs. Compounding this vulnerability, resources often come too slowly or are insufficient to help underserved communities rebuild the infrastructure, schools and transit systems needed for these places to rebound.

It is therefore crucial for recovery efforts to take these disparate impacts into account when allocating resources. What designs and construction methods will be endorsed and implemented to protect communities from future weather events? How can the reconstruction be participatory to include all voices and needs of all residents? How can we facilitate a rebuilding process that takes into account communities’ real needs and empowers marginalized residents to have a role in recovery? And how can the recovery effort leverage lessons from both the successes, and failures of prior disaster recovery efforts, Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy?

[For more on this story by  LAURIE SCHOEMAN, go to]

For another story on this topic, see True Sustainability Must Include Social Justice Along With Environmental Protection.

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