Hurricane Gustav – A Reminder of Housing Relief Needs

As Hurricane Gustav moves across the Midwest (now downgraded to Tropical Depression Gustav), the safety of life on the gulf coast is back on the national radar. Thankfully the storm wasn’t as damaging as it could’ve been, and the damage has been minimal. However, the storm only highlights the need for high quality emergency relief and permanent housing in the gulf coast.

FAS was involved in the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina through demonstration projects and the State of Mississippi’s Cottage Program (funded through FEMA’s Alternative Housing Pilot Program). What that program showed, and what Hurricane Gustav has again brought to the national attention, is the importance for high performance relief housing that can be turned into permanent housing. As an example, the Mississippi Cottages were engineered to exceed code minimums, and FAS sees them as a first attempt at high performance manufactured housing. These homes, distributed as relief housing and capable of being converted to permanent homes, have stood resiliently to the gusts and rains of Gustav. Initial reports have shown that the homes performed well, and damage was minimal considering the homes were on temporary foundations and therefore weren’t elevated to base flood elevations to protect from storm surges. Joe Hagerman, FAS’s Building Technologies Program Manager, will be down in the gulf coast early next week for more detailed inspections.

Again, Gustav’s impact was thankfully less damaging than predicted, but it still serves as a reminder: there will be more hurricanes. So to provide the best life safety for the gulf coast, we need to prioritize these values in emergency relief housing, as well as in future permanent housing in the region.

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