Rental Affordability in the Wake of Natural Disasters

Authors: Seva Rodnyansky*, Occidental College, Anthony W Orlando, California Polytechnic University - Pomona, Brian An, Georgia Institute of Technology, Andrew Jakabovics, Enterprise Community Partners
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Urban and Regional Planning, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: hurricanes, housing, FEMA, rentals, Florida
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Natural disasters have been increasing in intensity at the same time that rental affordability has been declining in many cities. The intersection of these two trends presents an important challenge for policymakers and underscores the convergence between geography and economy in the U.S. This paper presents a new dataset to look at this intersection, merging property-level rental outcomes with ZIP code-level hurricane incidence, damage, and government assistance. We construct a panel difference-in-differences model that estimates the effect of the hurricanes from 2000Q1 to 2019Q3 on zip codes throughout the state of Florida. Results indicate that rents per unit and rents per square foot increase by almost 7% in the quarter following a hurricane, but the effect diminishes over the next 2-4 years. Meanwhile, vacancy rates decrease slightly and then increase sharply and persistently, though their effect also moderates in the later years. The inverse relationship between rent levels and vacancy rates distinguish the geography of post-disaster rental markets from regular ones. We propose several possible explanations for these findings that change our understanding of post-disaster recovery for renters and rental buildings which and how some of the most vulnerable members of society are affected by market failures in times of distress.

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