Recovery challenges of public housing residents after disasters: Lumberton, North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew
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Social vulnerability acknowledges that social structures shape disaster vulnerabilities and recovery outcomes. Public housing residents are one of the most socially vulnerable people that experience significant losses in disasters. Many factors, such as lower income and limited access to information, cause a delay in the housing recovery of public housing tenants. To explore these challenges, I examined the disaster impacts and recovery of public housing units in Lumberton, North Carolina, following the floods induced by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. This research is a part of an interdisciplinary recovery-based field study conducted by the Center of Excellence for Community Resilience Planning funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Hurricane Matthew made landfall in North Carolina on October 8, 2016, as a Category 1 storm. Several communities, including Lumberton, were devastated by heavy rainfall and the river flooding that occurred after Hurricane Matthew. Lumberton is a socioeconomically diverse community with 729 public housing units, many of which got damaged after the floods. Extensive damages have led to the displacement of many public housing families.
Using descriptive statistics, mapping, and qualitative analysis, I investigated the recovery progress and challenges of public housing residents. Data on race, income, and housing tenure of the residents at Block Group level were collected from the 2015 ACS-5-year estimation to map the social vulnerability and overlaid with the location of the public housings and the spatial distribution of residential damages. Also, household survey data on disaster impacts, recovery resources, decisions, and dislocations were collected using longitudinal field study surveys conducted in December 2016 shortly after the flooding, and January 2018 one year after the disaster. Furthermore, In-depth interviews with local officials in Lumberton were utilized to examine recovery challenges and progress.
Findings show that housing tenure, race, and poverty make up the most significant portion of public housing residents’ vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities resulted in widespread damages to public housing developments and lengthy displacement of the public housing developments. State’s priorities in recovery, absence of strong voice advocating for recovery of affordable housing, funding resources, and allocations influence the pace of the recovery of public housing residents.