In December 2017, the National Institute of Building Sciences published Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report. This report shows that acting to reduce the impacts of floods, hurricane surges, wind, earthquakes, and wildfires is a sound financial investment. Such action, often called mitigation, can result in significant savings of lives, money, and property. The Institute’s objective is to provide information to key decision-makers at federal, state, and local levels so they can develop more resilient communities that can better withstand natural disasters. This post summarizes the report’s findings.
Mobile homes are a vital but generally unloved part of North Carolina’s affordable housing stock. They come to public attention in times of extreme weather, particularly high winds and floods. Their condition and location make them especially vulnerable to damage, and often their occupants – the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor – are least able to cope with the consequences. This blog looks at some of the challenges and opportunities for improving conditions and expanding affordable and safe housing for low-income North Carolinians, particularly in our more rural counties.
The ongoing debate about the deepening divide between rural and urban America and how this plays out in North Carolina was the topic of a previous blog post, Our Shared Fate. This post discusses some ideas about how the divide can be bridged.
The Triangle J Council of Governments held its regional summit in September 2017 on A Future Together: Connecting Our Urban and Rural Communities. The Triangle region faces challenges of rapid growth and the associated issues of land use, urbanization, and transportation. The framing for the rural-urban discussion is how to ensure that the benefits of increasing prosperity are fairly distributed. Continue reading “Our Shared Fate, Part 2”
The devastating impact of flooding is once more in the public spotlight following the unprecedented rainfall from Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Nearer to home, residents in Princeville, Fair Bluff, Seven Springs, Windsor, Kinston and Lumberton NC are planning how to build stronger and safer after Hurricane Matthew last October. These two major events are only the latest in a long string of natural disasters that have wreaked havoc in our communities in recent years. Giving greater attention to finding ways of reducing the toll in lives and property has become more urgent. One significant effort is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This program helps communities implement mitigation measures and supports cost-effective post-disaster initiatives that eliminate or reduce long-term risks, and in so doing reduces reliance on Federal funding in future disasters. These efforts can include preparing hazard mitigation plans, elevating homes above potential flood levels, and structural retrofitting of homes to make them more resistant to floods, earthquakes and wind. One measure promoted in the program is funding to help communities purchase and demolish flood-prone property. Between 1993 and 2011, FEMA spent over $2 billion on acquiring some 20,000 homes (1), but in spite of its popularity, little research has been done on what happens to the land and the people after the buy-out process.
Our Shared Fate was the title of an Aspen Institute report from 2008, which argued that bridging the rural-urban divide created new opportunities for prosperity and equity. A Brookings Institution report published in the previous year, made the case that rural and urban areas are interdependent and that national prosperity requires both a healthy and sustainable rural economy and culture and vibrant, well-functioning cities and suburbs. This suggests that rural and urban communities should be looking for common cause…and removing obstacles that currently get in the way of meaningful dialogue. Yet a decade later, the longstanding debate about the future of rural America, and specifically, about an apparently deepening divide between rural and urban America continues unabated. This blog is the first of a two-part exploration of how this plays out in North Carolina.
The research project on community resilience at the School of Government aims to help communities think differently about how they prepare for disasters and how they can become more resilient. This is the fourth blog in a series that looks at what enhancing resilience means for North Carolina’s communities. Previous blogs have discussed the importance of resilience thinking and ways of measuring resilience and vulnerability. However, resilience planning raises a number of practical questions. Continue reading “Community Resilience: Some Practical Questions”
The research project on community and regional resilience at the School of Government aims to help communities think differently about how they prepare for disasters and how they can become more resilient, providing data and information that can spark realistic conversations about a community’s future. This blog looks at some of the main elements that determine resilience and vulnerability in North Carolina’s counties. Previous blogs, Strengthening Resilience in North Carolina’s Communities and Community Resilience Has Many Faces…Part 1 referred to a set of measurements that have been developed for resilience and vulnerability for every county in the United States. These look at four dimensions: economic, social, infrastructure, and environmental. This blog looks at the infrastructure and environmental dimensions, and sets out to answer the questions: what do these mean and how can they be measured? How do the four measures come together to describe community resilience? Continue reading “Community Resilience Has Many Faces…Part 2”
The 2016 Disaster Recovery Act was signed into law in December 2016 and provides over $200 million to help recovery after Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in western North Carolina. This appropriation is intended to cover needs not met by Federal disaster recovery funds allocated to the state in the form of grants, loans, and insurance payments, which to date total well over $400 million. Many daunting challenges lie ahead in determining the most effective way of deploying these funds. The research project on community and regional resilience at the School of Government aims to help communities think differently about how they prepare for disasters and how they can become more resilient, providing data and information that can spark realistic conversations about a community’s future. This blog looks at some of the main elements that determine resilience and vulnerability in North Carolina’s counties.
Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath underscore the urgent need to find ways to encourage communities to think differently about how they prepare for disasters and how they can become more resilient. Part of this is having data and information that can spark realistic conversations about a community’s future. Another part is having the tools to turn these conversations into concrete actions to improve long-term resilience. This is the focus of a research project on community and regional resilience underway at the School of Government in conjunction with colleagues at the University of Missouri. Continue reading “Strengthening Resilience in North Carolina’s Communities”
The shrinking middle class is a continuing theme in the political discourse this election season. This comes as no surprise because what it means to be middle class is at the heart of the American Dream. As the White House Task Force on the Middle Class led by Vice President Biden noted, being middle class is less to do with income and more about aspirations. Middle class families aspire to home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.
The challenge is that income stagnation has made it harder for families to keep up with the spiraling costs of health care, college tuition, and housing. Continue reading “Asset Building and the Shrinking Middle Class”
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