Public Housing after Hurricane, Urban Renewal or Removal? The Case Studies of Beaumont and Galveston, Texas.



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Decent housing is a goal for many people not only in the United States but elsewhere in the world. A house becomes the symbol of family spirit whether it is a single-family or multiple-family home. Public housing in the United States is housing of ?last resort,? for families whose incomes do not allow them to find housing in the private market. Yet, many studies focusing on public housing find a host of social issues plaguing these units. The US Government has initiated various programs to improve the quality of public housing as well as the living condition of local resident through agenda of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HOPE VI is one of the major programs that focuses on distressed public housing. This program funds local government and housing authority in order to revitalized or rebuild public housing. This program has been very successful in providing high-quality housing for public housing residents.

However, as any type of construction, housing usually received great damage when natural disaster happening. It can be partly damaged or completely destroyed due to the direct and indirect effects of disaster. Public housing, like most affordable housing, is often built in highly vulnerable areas, such as floodplains or other low-lying areas. When disasters such as hurricanes strike, housing located in these areas is likely to receive the greatest damage and recovery may be slower.

This study looks at the case study of public housing in Galveston and Beaumont after Hurricane Ike (2008) and Rita (2005). After Hurricane Rita in 2005, Beaumont has rebuilt some public housing development with a HOPE VI grant awarded in 2007. These areas have successfully rebuilt through the cooperation of housing authority, local government, local residents, and developers. In contrast, Galveston could not reach agreement about the destiny of public housing after Hurricane Ike in 2008. This story becomes more serious when HUD announced that if Galveston cannot rebuild public housing in disaster area, they must refund the money to the federal Government. These two cities provide a comparative case study of the rebuilding of public housing after disaster, where on one successfully rebuilt while other did not.

By looking at the secondary data sources, this research analyzes the situation of these places in different period: before the Hurricane, when the Hurricane happened, and after the Hurricane. The paper will address the similarities as well as differences between two case studies in term of historical profile, demography, public housing program characteristics, damage, and recovery. Besides, economic change after hurricane approached is addressed. The housing situation will be further analyzed in Galveston to clearly show the obstacles in which this city coped with. Finally, the study will conclude by suggesting some implications for theory, housing policy, management, and further research.