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Photograph of the front façade of a newly constructed, one-story single-family house.
Photograph of the front façade of a boarded-up single-family house damaged by Hurricane Ike.
Photograph of a resident diagramming their design preferences.
Photograph of eight residents sitting around a table in a large meeting room discussing their design preferences.
Photograph of residents viewing house layouts and discussing design elements.
Photograph of two dozen residents in a large meeting room viewing and discussing posters of the housing designs set on easels.
Cross-section from the housing catalogue of a floor plan for a four-bedroom house.
Photograph of a homeowner and design team member at a work desk discussing options in the catalogue.
Photograph of the front façade of a newly constructed, one-story single-family house.

 

Home >Case Studies >Houston, Texas: Disaster Recovery Funding Rebuilds Housing and Revitalizes Neighborhoods

 

Houston, Texas: Disaster Recovery Funding Rebuilds Housing and Revitalizes Neighborhoods

 

Hurricane Ike, one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history, struck Houston and the Gulf coast of Texas on September 13, 2008. The hurricane caused an estimated $4.6 billion in damage to Houston’s neighborhoods, including more than 50 percent of the residences in its path. This disaster came as the city was still recovering from Hurricane Dolly, which hit Houston two months earlier. Although many residents returned to their homes after Hurricane Ike, few had the financial resources to adequately rebuild. The city received two rounds of disaster recovery funding for housing and infrastructure from the Community Development Block Grant program. Whereas the first round of funding was directed primarily toward immediate emergency needs after Ike, the second round focused on continuing the recovery effort while emphasizing neighborhood revitalization. The city’s recovery efforts financed by the Disaster Recovery Round Two (DR2) grant received the 2016 American Institute of Architects/HUD Secretary’s Award for Housing and Community Design in the category of Community-Informed Design. DR2 provided quality housing and improved neighborhood infrastructure for low- and moderate-income households. A product of indepth community engagement, the housing catalogue was an innovative component of the DR2 grant.

Community Engagement for Housing Design

The housing catalogue was created to help low- and moderate-income homeowners replace their single-family houses that Hurricane Ike had destroyed. In addition to providing choice by offering 13 designs for 1-story, single-family detached houses, the catalogue expedited rehousing through a streamlined process for building permits. A critical aspect of the housing catalogue was the extensive community engagement used to create it. Because the designs in the catalogue were based on residents’ discussions of the architectural character of their communities, they maintain neighborhood aesthetics, according to Brenda Scott, deputy director of the Houston Housing and Community Development Department. Moreover, the catalogue is the outcome of a series of public participation activities that enabled residents to articulate their needs and wants for recovery housing, says Brent Brown, founding director of buildingcommunity WORKSHOP (bcWORKSHOP) — a Texas community design nonprofit that works to improve neighborhood livability in resource-scarce areas — who led the design team that prepared the catalogue.

bcWORKSHOP managed an extensive process to ensure significant community participation in preparing the housing catalogue, working alongside the Houston Housing and Community Development Department and the Texas Organizing Project, a membership-based organization that supports social equity for low- to moderate-income Texans through community and electoral organizing. bcWORKSHOP used email, flyers, and a website to spread the word about meetings to gather residents’ ideas about the design of replacement housing. City staff went door to door in low-income neighborhoods that had experienced significant damage to share information about DR2. The Housing and Community Development Department also set up a telephone hotline for residents needing additional information.

The process began with outreach meetings held between July and October 2013 to gather a preliminary list of potentially eligible residents. Residents provided contact information and answered questions about whether their household income fell below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), whether anyone in their household had a disability, and whether their house was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Ike. With eligible residents identified, community engagement continued in a series of meetings to prepare the housing catalogue. In February and March 2014, a design team of architects from bcWORKSHOP, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, and unabridged Architecture conducted a community workshop, a focus group, and two gallery shows for residents to give feedback on their preferences for housing designs.

More than 50 residents, community leaders, and local architects attended the community workshop at the Houston Housing Authority’s Neighborhood Resource Center to discuss architectural components of the houses to be included in the catalogue, such as floor plans, siding, roofs, windows, security measures, energy-efficient features, and parking. Participants drew their current home and their vision for a new home that would accommodate their needs. With these residents’ ideas, the design team prepared a set of options that residents reviewed at the focus group meeting held at the Texas Organizing Project office. After being divided into two working groups, residents reviewed the preliminary designs and flagged elements to discuss in more detail. From these discussions, the design team revised the designs, which were presented at two gallery shows. Residents viewed the revised designs and voted for their preferences. Based on the votes, the architects drew final designs, which bcWORKSHOP incorporated into the housing catalogue; the city then approved the catalogue for use in its building permit process.

To select a house from one of the 13 catalogue designs, homeowners first complete a booklet in which they identify any health accommodations, indicate how family members use different living spaces, and finalize room layout. Most of the house designs have alternative floor plans for three or four bedrooms, and some houses have been built with two bedrooms. Then, accounting for the neighborhood and lot size, the design team member and homeowner prepare a site plan for the new house.

Funding Allocation for DR2

The DR2 grant financed housing and infrastructure improvements supporting neighborhood revitalization (table 1). The Housing and Community Development Department received $152,200,000 in DR2 funds for housing, including the replacement and rehabilitation of both owner-occupied and rental units. The DR2 grant also funded repair of market-rate and subsidized multifamily apartments. The grant allocated $26.2 million toward infrastructure improvements for public transportation (light rail and bus lines), street tunnels, and drainage systems as well as neighborhood services such as grocery stores, schools, and parks.

Table 1: Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2 Grant

 

Single-family houses, rental

$6,400,000

 

 

Single-family houses, owner-occupied

63,100,000

 

 

Multifamily buildings

82,700,000

 

 

Infrastructure

26,200,000

 

 

Total

$178,400,000

 

 

Community Impacts

Scott observes that the city has accomplished the main goals of the DR2 grant, which were to either repair and reconstruct damaged housing for low- and moderate-income households or move the families from flood-prone areas to high-opportunity neighborhoods. As of November 2016, 270 houses have been constructed using catalogue designs, and plans are underway to assist 33 more homeowners with the remaining DR2 funds in 2017. In addition, the DR2 grant fueled a fruitful collaboration among city officials, residents, architects, and nonprofit organizations, which could lay the foundation for future partnerships to enact housing and neighborhood revitalization initiatives. During the Hurricane Ike recovery effort, community engagement ensured that residents had a voice, resulting in a housing catalogue that reflects their design preferences. Brown believes that Houston’s housing catalogue has been very successful, and other cities could use a similar public engagement process to help residents and neighborhoods recover from severe disasters.


 

Source:

City of Houston. n.d. “Single Family Homeowner Assistance Program Guidelines Round 2, Phase 2,”4–5. Accessed 6 October 2016; Documents provided by Brenda Scott, deputy director, Houston Housing and Community Development Department; SWA Group. 2013. “Disaster Recovery — Round 2: Market Analysis/Area Selection Planning Guide,” 11. Accessed 4 October 2016; American Institute of Architects. 2016. AIA Housing Awards and AIA/HUD Secretary’s Awards, “Disaster Recovery Round 2 (DR2) Building Community Workshop,” 53. Accessed 17 November 2016; City of Houston. n.d. “Housing and Community Development Disaster Recovery Program Rental Program Guidelines for Hurricane Ike Round 2, Phase 2,” 2. Accessed 6 October 2016; Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Brenda Scott; Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016; Interview with Brent Brown, 19 October 2016; Correspondence from Jonathan Mann, design associate, buildingcommunity WORKSHOP, 14 November 2016.

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Source:

Interview with Brent Brown, 19 October 2016; Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016; City of Houston. n.d. “Outreach Plan for Hurricane Ike Round 2, Phase 2: Appendices,” 33–6. Accessed 6 October 2016.

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Source:

Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016; City of Houston. n.d. “Single Family Homeowner Assistance Program Guidelines Round 2, Phase 2,” 6–9. Accessed 6 October 2016; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. “Disaster Recovery Round 2: Houston, Texas.” Accessed 5 October 2016; buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Community Workshop.” Accessed 17 November 2016; buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Community Focus Group.” Accessed 6 October 2016; buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Home Design Gallery Show.” Accessed 6 October 2016.

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Source:

buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Community Workshop,” 4–7. Accessed 17 November 2016; buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Community Focus Group.” Accessed 6 October 2016; buildingcommunity WORKSHOP. 2014. “City of Houston Disaster Recovery Round 2: Home Design Gallery Show.” Accessed 6 October 2016; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. “Community-Informed Design.” Accessed 5 October 2016; Interview with Jonathan Mann, design associate, buildingcommunity WORKSHOP, 19 October 2016; Interview with Brent Brown, 19 October 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Jonathan Mann, design associate, buildingcommunity WORKSHOP; Correspondence from Jonathan Mann, 25 October 2016 and 11 November 2016; Interview with Brent Brown, 19 October 2016; Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016.

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Source:

City of Houston. n.d. “City of Houston Single Family Homeowner Assistance Program Guidelines Round 2, Phase 2.” Accessed 6 October 2016; Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016; City of Houston. n.d. “Rental Program Guidelines for Hurricane Ike Round 2, Phase 2,” 2. Accessed 6 October 2016; Documents provided by Brenda Scott.

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Source:

Interview with Brenda Scott, 20 October 2016; Interview with Brent Brown, 19 October 2016; City of Houston. n.d. “Housing and Community Development Department.” Accessed 17 November 2016.

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