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Cityscape: Volume 9 Number 3


Planning for Catastrophe

Volume 9, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder


Planning for Catastrophe

Publisher's Announcement

With this issue of Cityscape, the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the Department of Housing and Urban Development fully inaugurates its new publishing format.

In its 14 years, Cityscape has brought numerous valuable contributions to the attention of policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. Its varied audience and its openness to findings from many disciplines have made it a forum of choice for many authors on housing and urban policy, both distinguished researchers with past achievements and investigators still making names for themselves.

But we can do more, and we can do better. We want to reach our readers more often, with the highest quality material that we can make available for a multidisciplinary audience. In pursuit of those goals, we have initiated the following changes:

1. I have appointed a distinguished Advisory Board. The board members, whose names appear on the inside front cover, can attest that we have adopted many of their suggestions.
2. We commit to publishing three issues a year. This issue is the third of calendar year 2007. We anticipate that the increased frequency and regularity of publication will lead to greater recognition for the authors of these pages.
3. We no longer will devote an entire issue to a single theme. Instead, we will offer a Symposium, a set of papers on a common theme. We will add a new section, Refereed Papers, which may analyze a wide variety of topics. We will also add two new smaller features to a Departments section, Policy Brief and Data Shop.
4. Our guest editor or editors will be responsible for the intellectual coherence and integrity of each Symposium.
5. Our managing editor, Mark Shroder, will seek expert opinions to judge submissions for the Refereed Papers.
6. In each issue, a Policy Brief, usually from the PD&R staff, will point researchers to an area in which national policy has undergone relatively recent change and in which the consequences of change deserve the attention of scholars.
7. In each issue, an entry in the Data Shop, edited by David Vandenbroucke, will lay out the technical means by which social scientists can systematically construct variables from data available for public use to test a wide range of hypotheses.

I hope these changes in the frequency and flexibility of the journal will contribute to the vitality of national conversations on public policy. Share your thoughts with us by e-mail to

Darlene F. Williams
Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Guest Editor's Introduction

Dana Bres
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

This issue of Cityscape focuses on the challenges facing communities in planning for and responding to disasters. The stark examples of the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico represent the planning challenges New Orleans and other gulf coast communities face following a disaster. Any community faces the same problems and challenges in similar circumstances; only the magnitude of these challenges changes from disaster to disaster.

The purpose of this issue of Cityscape is not to perform a postmortem on activities following the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico; the goal is to highlight opportunities planners can use to proactively position their communities for increased disaster resiliency. The theme of the articles in this issue is not how to prevent disaster from happening (which probably is impossible from an engineering or budgetary standpoint) but to illustrate actions that can help minimize the effects of disaster on a community. Planning and preparation can strengthen a community’s predisaster environment as well as its response during rescue and recovery.

In the article, “Reconstruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: A research perspective,” authors R.W. Kates, C.E. Colten, S. Laska, and S.P. Leatherman present a sobering perspective on the New Orleans area recovery timeline. This article is unusual for Cityscape; it is a courtesy reprint from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this article, Kates et al. reveal a disturbing reality—recovery from a disaster takes significantly longer than anyone would anticipate. Kates et al. offer insight on time estimates for identified recovery phases, based on analyses of numerous disasters. This article highlights the reality planners face—community recovery efforts will likely last well beyond the span of their careers.

The focus of the Symposium in this issue of Cityscape is how to build and sustain a long-range planning view. At times, planning efforts seem ephemeral and community momentum may be lost while revisiting and revising plans. Planners and policymakers who spend money for preparedness need to cost-effectively integrate those efforts through relationships that allow open dialogue between communities and all planners. A well-developed plan can position communities to accelerate some recovery aspects through rapid, critical decisionmaking. For example, a rundown shopping center previously identified as needing redevelopment into something of greater value to the community could be successfully expedited on a new, disaster-adjusted schedule.

In the article, “Planning, Plans, and People: Integrating Professional Expertise, Local Knowledge, and Governmental Action in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” authors Marla Nelson, Renia Ehrenfeucht, and Shirley Laska offer insight into the planning processes in New Orleans. Their poignant insights as being simultaneously victims and faculty at the University of New Orleans provide a rare viewpoint not readily apparent to other observers. Nelson describes the complex planning process made more difficult and complex by the competing visions for the future of New Orleans. Anyone who has played the integrating role of a community planner can attest to the difficulty of the process—not the least of which was that in the scope of the planning effort, teams grew and reached out to incorporate technical or other experts who might not normally have been involved. Nongovernmental organizations representing local or national groups or interests and an increasing number of citizens also joined the effort.

In the article, “Hurricane Katrina: Environmental Hazards in the Disaster Area,” author Danny Reible presents a different viewpoint of the environmental threats in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He assesses the resulting so-called “toxic soup.” His analysis and discussion show the importance of planning and preparation to prevent diversion of critical resources from actual threats. He elucidates on how the perception of the toxicity of the flood waters in New Orleans may have prevented some residents from evacuating, deterred some citizens from helping with the rescue efforts, and discouraged government officials from allocating scarce resources.

Technical Notes

In addition to the content of this issue, several technical notes are provided on the HUD USER website ( that are relevant to the discussion. They include a discussion of the model building codes, the origin of the federal disaster planning and response process, and a brief update on the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) and the Joint Housing Solutions Group (JHSG).

Mark Dineen from the International Code Council provides background on model building codes in the United States. Effective building codes and code enforcement can be tools to help communities build resilience. The Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) has sponsored development of new code provisions for innovative construction materials that make homes stronger and more affordable. Inclusion of such provisions in the building code makes it easier for designers, builders, and code officials to introduce home innovations. This technical note is posted at

In the note, “Evolution of the National System for Emergency Management,” authors Bob and Kim Fletcher provide insight for planners on the local-state-federal relationship in disaster response. Their article reflects their more than 35 years of involvement in federal emergency management activities. Bob Fletcher was one of the primary authors of the Federal Response Plan (FRP), the precursor to today’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Response Plan (NRP). Kim Fletcher was also a major contributor to the FRP. The FRP marked the end of the tradition in which agencies developed unique plans for specific hazards and instead moved to an all-hazard response plan, a concept derived from the conclusion that communities experiencing an emergency typically have the same needs regardless of the triggering event. The NRP, a follow-on to the FRP, continues the basic structure. It identifies a series of 15 functional elements called emergency support functions (ESFs) that are assigned to specific organizations with similar missions in their day-to-day operations. ESFs span the spectrum of potential needs—including mass care, housing and human services, public works and engineering, and public health and medical services. This technical note is posted at

Two notes address FEMA’s Alternative Housing Pilot Program and Joint Housing Solutions Group. The AHPP is a $400 million housing production program funded by FEMA to demonstrate alternatives to disaster housing. HUD will be evaluating the AHPP products and processes. The JHSG is a FEMA initiative to examine housing products that could provide emergency housing to disaster victims. Both efforts are relevant to affected communities and HUD because they are targeted at making disaster housing more useful, available, and effective. PD&R is working closely with FEMA on both these efforts. These technical notes are posted at and

Reconstruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: A research perspective
by R.W. Kates, C.E. Colten, S. Laska, and S.P. Leatherman

Planning, Plans, and People: Professional Expertise, Local Knowledge, and Governmental Action in Post-Katrina New Orleans
by Marla Nelson, Renia Ehrenfeucht, and Shirley Laska

Hurricane Katrina: Environmental Hazards in the Disaster Area
by Danny Reible

Refereed Papers

Income Targeting of Housing Vouchers: What Happened After the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act?
by Casey J. Dawkins

Job Access in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Cleveland, 1980–2000: Implications for Spatial Mismatch and Association With Crime Patterns
by Fahui Wang

Homeowner Age and House Price Appreciation
by David T. Rodda and Satyendra Patrabansh


Policy Briefs

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Census Tracts
by Michael Hollar and Kurt Usowski

Data Shop

The CHAS Data: Obtaining Estimates of Housing Market Affordability
by Angela M. Williams Foster



Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Subscriptions are available at no charge and single copies at a nominal fee. The journal is also available on line at

PD&R welcomes submissions to the Refereed Papers section of the journal. Our referee process is double blind and timely, and our referees are highly qualified. The managing editor will also respond to authors who submit outlines of proposed papers regarding the suitability of those proposals for inclusion in Cityscape. Send manuscripts or outlines to

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of HUD or the U.S. government.

Visit PD&R’s website,, to find this publication and others sponsored by PD&R. Other services of HUD USER, PD&R’s research information service, include listservs, special interest and bimonthly publications (best practices and significant studies from other sources), access to public use databases, and a hotline (800–245–2691) for help with accessing the information you need.


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