|by Jon Spader|
Senior Research Associate
Ten years ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created unprecedented damage in communities along the Gulf Coast. In addition to the human toll of the storms, the physical damage to the housing stock left many residents without a home to return to. On the 10th anniversary, we now have a clearer picture of the extent to which homes damaged by the storms were eventually repaired or replaced with a new home.
In the months following the storms, FEMA conducted extensive damage assessments of residential properties to estimate the amount of damage that occurred during the storm. (While the FEMA assessment data are not exhaustive of every property that experienced hurricane damage following Hurricane Katrina, they are the most comprehensive source of information on damaged units.) In early 2010, a second assessment was conducted on a representative sample of these properties using a structured observation method, in which observers working from the street or sidewalk identified repair needs associated with hurricane damage, such as missing shingles and observable flood lines. Figure 1 shows the results of these observations for properties that experienced at least $5,200 in damage, the standard FEMA used to define “major” damage.
Beyond these overall rebuilding rates, the data reveal clear differences in rebuilding outcomes across geographies and by tenure status. First, substantial variation exists in the percent of rebuilt properties across parishes, counties, and other subgeographies, ranging from 42 percent in MidCity Planning District to 96 percent in Jefferson Parish. These differences reflect a number of factors, including variation in the initial severity of damage and the resources available to residents to support rebuilding.
Within these geographies, properties occupied by homeowners had consistently higher rates of rebuilding than rental properties (Figure 2). Interpreting these differences is complicated by underlying differences in the siting, insurance coverage, and owner resources of homeowner and small rental properties. Nonetheless, some portion of the differences is likely attributable to the prioritization of homeowners in the programs established for providing rebuilding assistance. For example, in Louisiana, 59 percent of homeowner properties with major damage received Road Home rebuilding grants, compared to only 12 percent of rental properties. The average amount of the rebuilding grants provided to homeowners was $77,010. A more complete discussion of these programs and the allocation of rebuilding assistance is available in Turnham et.al. (2010).
Taken together, these rebuilding outcomes highlight the extent of sustained damage more than four years after the storms. Today, it has been another five plus years since the property observations were conducted, so another round of observations might provide useful information about whether the damage remaining in 2010 was eventually resolved or whether it continues to appear on these structures today. In the interim, these estimates provide useful insight into the reconstruction of the housing stock following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More information is provided in Spader and Turnham (2014) and in an article in the forthcoming issue of Cityscape titled “Will My Neighbors Rebuild? Rebuilding Outcomes and Remaining Damage following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”