Modernizing Puerto Rico’s Housing Sector Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

from RAND Research Topic: Health and Health Care at on September 30, 2020 at 03:48PM

Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017 with devastating impact. The housing sector was hard hit. The storms revealed in harsh detail the vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s housing stock to wind, flood, and landslide risk and brought to light many inadequacies in the structure of the housing market.

Through a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the housing damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes, the authors make informed recovery recommendations for policymakers so they can repair and rebuild safe and affordable housing in Puerto Rico and create a modernized housing infrastructure that is more resilient to future natural hazards and code-compliant. The authors begin by examining the state of the Puerto Rico housing sector before Irma and Maria, using census data, detailed geospatial data sets of building footprints, parcel-level data on building characteristics and spatial flood zones, and interviews with Puerto Rico’s housing stakeholders. To estimate the damage caused by the hurricanes and determine the post-disaster unmet need, they used two approaches, one based on actual property inspections and a second modeling approach that makes projections of damage based on wind and flood maps. The authors then offer courses of actions to address the remaining needs for recovery, detailing the costs of each action; potential funding mechanisms; and roles for public, private, nonprofit, and academic stakeholders in the housing market. Their recommendations will engage anyone implementing recovery activities in Puerto Rico or involved in community planning for, or recovering from, similar disasters.

This research was sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and conducted by the Strategy, Policy and Operations Program within Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center.

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