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Shaping Disaster Resilience and Recovery Policies: PD&R’s Role

Message From the Acting Assistant Secretary
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Shaping Disaster Resilience and Recovery Policies: PD&R’s Role

Erika Poethig, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research
Erika Poethig, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research
On his recent trip to New York City to survey damage from Hurricane Sandy, President Obama tapped HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to coordinate the Administration’s recovery planning efforts in states affected by Hurricane Sandy. Under Secretary Donovan’s leadership, the task force will work closely with Governors, mayors and local officials in New Jersey and New York to design and implement redevelopment plans for affected communities. The President’s decision speaks to his confidence in Secretary Donovan’s leadership as well as HUD’s key role in disaster recovery.

PD&R has historically played an important if less high-profile role in disaster response and recovery. An effective response to crisis requires data and policy evaluation that taps skill sets across PD&R’s divisions, both at headquarters and in the field offices.

Following a disaster, PD&R analysts engage in a three-phase assessment of housing damage and needs as data becomes available. In the first days after the storm, PD&R analysts use Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data to create demographic and housing profiles of affected communities within the Presidential disaster declaration area. These initial results enable identification of communities that may face the greatest recovery challenges. PD&R analysts then conduct a spatial analysis to provide precise information about potentially affected HUD-assisted units, vulnerable populations, and affected housing in general. These maps alert HUD leadership to affected HUD-assisted units and allow identification of vacant units that could be used to house people displaced by the disaster. Finally, these same analysts work to estimate unmet needs, i.e. the difference between the storm’s total damage and the relief provided by private insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Small Business Administration (SBA). PD&R uses this information to help Congress and federal, state, and local agencies determine the resources needed and how and where they should be directed. Additionally, PD&R field economists work in parallel to provide comprehensive market analyses and baseline data vital for efficient allocation of resources to affected areas.

To assist with disaster recovery, PD&R provides policymakers at the federal, state and local levels with a variety of resources, reports, and guides on topics ranging from cleaning up flooded homes to constructing moisture-resistant dwellings. These guides aim to help property owners, community planners, building code officials, housing developers, researchers and community leaders both recover from the disaster and prepare for future storms. In particular, these guides endeavor to increase resilience to future disaster damage by equipping communities to integrate evidence-driven practices into community planning efforts. Such minor tweaks as adoption of modern building codes that reflect the load buildings will experience can cause drastic improvement of outcomes should disaster strike.

Another way that PD&R continues to proactively engage in recovery comes from the work of our Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI), where we are involved in creating collaborations with our philanthropic partners that align resources and transfer innovation and best practices for the affected communities. Using proven platforms and existing collaborations, PD&R’s IPI acts as a nexus for bringing together sectors, passing on lessons from previous disasters, and managing the relationships for alignment of resources for greater impact and streamlining in the recovery and rebuilding process.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions of families and hundreds of communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. As the recovery continues, PD&R will continue to support federal, state, and local efforts to assist affected communities in recovering from the storm and guarding against future damage. We encourage you to follow our ongoing efforts on our website.


Published Date: November 27, 2012

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.