Equity and Disaster Recovery

Authors: Justin Steil*, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: resilience, disaster recovery, hazard mitigation, racial justice, equity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Social and economic factors significantly shape vulnerability to environmental risks. To what extent do they also shape recovery from disasters? Research has suggested that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, may not benefit equally from hazard mitigation investments targeted to protecting higher-value land, and frequently face displacement pressures when resilient infrastructure seems poised to benefit them. These repeated processes of uneven development continue to leave low-income communities, particularly low-income communities of color, acutely exposed to increasingly frequent disasters. What happens after disaster strikes, in the recovery process? As public efforts seek to help survivors recover from disasters, to what extent do recovery efforts mitigate or exacerbate racial inequality? This paper analyzes five recent legal cases challenging disparities in post-disaster recovery assistance: Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center v. U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development; Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center v. St. Bernard Parish; Latino Action Network et al. v. State of New Jersey; and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service v. Carson. The analysis and allegations presented in these cases suggests that some local, state, and federal decisions regarding the structure of disaster recovery assistance after Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey may have the effect of worsening racial disparities, not ameliorating them.

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