#EconomicJustice

In disaster recovery, white homeowners and black renters are not always treated equally

When the last major hurricane slammed into a densely populated section of the United States in 2012, New York, New Jersey and some surrounding states took the brunt of the damage. That time, the hurricane was called Sandy. And public officials made the usual promises: That which Sandy had put wrong, the government would help to put right.

Alejandro Castillo takes a break from carrying water-soaked items out of her family’s home after floodwaters receded Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Houston. The city continues to recover from record flooding caused by Harvey. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

But three New Jersey nonprofits discovered policies and practices that overstated the needs of homeowners and underestimated the number of renters who lost their housing and belongings in the storm, according to a complaint the nonprofits filed with the federal government. Aid plans did not ensure that the bulk of the aid money went to areas which suffered the most damage. Complete and accurate disaster aid information existed only in English. And because decades of federalstate and local housing policy had made white residents far more likely than others to own their homes, the entire plan was poised to do more to meet the needs of the state’s disproportionately white, middle-class and wealthy homeowners than others, according to that complaint. What was more, 80 percent of the recovery aid applications rejected in New Jersey should have been approved, the agencies behind the complaint found.

The Obama administration agreed. The situation was not right.

In 2014, New Jersey and the agencies settled on a series of changes to the aid program. What followed was not just a victory for the Fair Share Housing Center, the New Jersey NAACP and the Latino Action Network, the three agencies which filed the complaint, or even the millions affected by Sandy. The federal government decided to conduct a wholesale review of disaster recovery. Then, several federal agencies for the first time in U.S. history gave specific guidance directing state and local officials to pay close attention to equity when administering disaster aid. That is particularly important now that American’s most diverse city Houston has been ravaged by a Category 4 hurricane called Harvey.

Curated from the: The Washington Post – Read More 

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