Research Example #3

Comerio, Mary C. “Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal: Housing Approaches.” Cityscape 16, no. 2 (2014): 51-68.

In her article, “Disaster Recovery and Community Renewal: Housing Approaches”, Mary C. Comerio addresses the social and economic impact of natural disasters on communities and focuses on ways to improve post-disaster recovery for and by community citizens. Using the key-term “disaster resilience”, Comerio looks at different forms of disaster recovery programs that are currently in place and asserts that the necessity of viewing resilience from an intersectional lens. By using a multifaced approach that looks at social, economic, infrastructural, ecological and community factors that are impacted by natural disasters, community resilience can be improved and made more efficient and beneficial for those in need. In preparation for proposals that support growing community resilience to disasters, she addresses existing problems within local and federal government programs for disaster relief. Noting that city governments rarely have existing policies that prepare for structural and economic redevelopment or new housing models in the event of a disaster, she urges restructuring current and outdated policies that are better prepared and funded to respond to disasters. She also notes the limitations of government funding that do not extend beyond public infrastructure to meet the needs of those who are affected by disasters and require assistance that will most likely not be covered by government programs or insurance claims. Looking at the different responses and recovery management done by private and public sectors, she emphasizes the recovery of public infrastructure which is managed by governments, as opposed to privately owned property which is often left unmanaged. She asserts, “Housing recovery, however, is critically interdependent with recovery of those public-sector facilities.” (53), meaning that while housing redevelopment is thrust upon communities of citizens and owners, their own redevelopment and recovery is tied to the (long) recovery of public structures that they are excluded from, therefore creating more obstacles for community resilience and redevelopment. Additionally, before the phases of recovery and reconstruction, many shadow renters, those who reside in short-term and/or single-room rentals that may be low income, squatters or undocumented immigrants are put in more danger during disasters as many of them are not granted status in government programs. For many, this leaves churches and NGOs as the only other options for disaster relief and aid. She emphasizes the threats for those at risk, “in what has become a highly urbanized society, multifamily losses will leave many renters homeless while builders make investment decisions that may not include replacement housing.” (54). She concludes by reiterating the importance of restructuring government relief programs to provide adequate assistance to communities and individuals who are the most affected by the damage of natural disasters, transparency of recovery goals and information to citizens, and using the National Disaster Recovery Framework to better serve the needs of disaster victims. This article is relevant to my research in that it addresses many existing government roadblocks to disaster and community recovery, and looks closely at community citizens as the forefront of disaster recovery, rather than casting them aside in favor for new developments and gentrifying processes.

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