Pre-Disaster Planning for Post-Disaster Public Housing Recovery

Near-Experience Communities

Sayma Khajehei
Towson University

Divya Chandrasekhar
University of Utah

Publication Date: 2023


Individuals who live in public housing often struggle to find new homes after a disaster, and neighboring communities may have limited knowledge of how to help. These surrounding communities are what the authors coin a near-experience community—a community with a high hazard risk but which has only experienced disasters with low-to-moderate severity or indirect damage. Literature shows that disaster exposure and pre-disaster planning can help cities better prepare for housing recovery. However, it is less clear how planning is carried out in near-experience communities. There is also a lack of research that examines how and when people who reside in public housing—a social group that is especially vulnerable—recover after disasters. This gap is crucial, considering the high dependency of this community on government assistance for disaster recovery and limited risk awareness of near-experience communities. This research focuses on Utah County as a case study to examine pre-disaster plans for public housing recovery in near-experience communities. The study combines semi-structured, open-ended key informant interviews with 12 local emergency management, city planning, and housing officials. Findings suggest that Utah County—as a near-experience community—is not prepared for public housing recovery. The authors conclude that disaster planning for public housing recovery in near-experience communities need more attention. This can be accomplished by creating joint plans, involving diverse communities in the planning process, allocating funding for such activities, and reviewing existing protocols in near-experience communities.


Disaster mitigation and response plans can help planners make decisions quickly in the aftermath of disasters and reduce uncertainty among private decision makers (Haas et al., 19771; Olshansky, 20052). In this regard, a focus on pre-disaster planning and training in disaster governance can build response capacity. However, few communities apply this level of forethought to their disaster planning. Cities are even less likely to engage in preparedness if they have not faced a recent catastrophic disaster (FEMA, 20133; Shaw, 2014a4).

One way of facilitating the mitigation of disaster impact is through cooperation or networks of actors. This action may help extend individual institutions’ resources, sharing them with joint programs and utilizing their collective expertise (Paton & Jackson, 20025). Kapucu and Garayev (2011)6 show that previous experiences of disasters positively impact the decision-making process in the aftermath of disasters. By combining knowledge, experience, and information received from others, decision makers can reach consensus and contribute constructively to the negotiation process. In disaster policy, however, planning departments often adopt independent plans to address various aspects of disaster mitigation and response. This isolation calls for higher levels of pre-disaster coordination among actors, networks of plans, and the use of collective information to improve mitigation and pre-disaster efforts in local planning departments and consequently reduce vulnerability toward hazards (Berke et al., 2015, 7, 20198).

Disaster governance actions are also important in terms of comprehensiveness and integration with other plans and policies due to the time-compressed nature of disasters. This comprehensiveness is a function of experience with specific disasters that affect policies (Djalante et al., 20119). Communities tend to focus on more frequent disasters, while they might be more vulnerable to a higher consequence disaster with a lower probability (Tierney, 201210). For example, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program prioritizes earthquake loss reduction. Still, it emphasizes risk reduction efforts more in California, which has more earthquake experience than other earthquake-prone regions that could experience serious impacts, such as the Pacific Northwest, New Madrid, and the Intermountain seismic zone. Even communities with no recent earthquake experience in California may downplay the importance of managing earthquakes despite known risks (Tierney, 2012).

Since direct experience with a disaster is a significant determinant of disaster mitigation and preparedness capacity (Peacock et al., 200511; Wu et al., 202212), this raises the question of whether near-experiences can have an equal effect on disaster governance. In this report, the authors define near-experience communities as those that carry high hazard risk but have only experienced either low-to-moderate intensity disasters or indirect impacts from a nearby affected community. Near-experience communities often have residents and governmental officials who have limited risk perception due to their lack of experience with major disasters. Literature shows that lack of risk perception can result in limited participation in disaster risk reduction efforts such as pre-disaster planning (Wu et al., 2022).

Poor planning can negatively affect the quality of disaster response and recovery outcomes for at-risk residents. The stakes are incredibly high for socially vulnerable groups, such as public housing residents, who might not have private resources to compensate for an inadequate governmental response. This issue is emphasized by the 2022 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidebook for Public Housing Agencies preparedness for disasters. This updated guidebook includes new information on communication, financial management, and housing options for people who are dependent on public housing in the aftermath of disasters (HUD, 202213). Thus, there is a need for research that examines the policies, programs, and plans that support public housing residents in the aftermath of disasters. This need is likely exacerbated in near-experience communities due to limited risk awareness, lack of experience with disasters, and limited preparedness plans. They may also have limited plans for how to house their public housing residents. This study fills this gap by investigating disaster planning for public housing recovery after disasters in near-experience communities.

Literature Review

Complex social phenomena cannot fit neatly within the horizon of individual administrations or organizations, including mitigation and response to disasters. To tackle these issues, a variety of institutions and their collaborative efforts that are flexible, adaptable, and capable of mobilizing diverse resources are necessary (Tierney, 2012). Through this network of collaboration, local and national governments, political institutions, civil society, and business sectors integrate their capacities, resources, values, intelligence, and technology to govern in the disaster context (Blanco, 201514). In planning, legitimizing, implementing, and executing disaster management plans, this collaborative and participatory approach strengthens disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels. This governance through the mobilization of resources accounts as corrective, proactive disaster management and increases a culture of resilience (Tierney, 2012).

Disaster planning includes all phases of a disaster, which enhances the coordinative and systematic approach to disaster governance (Tierney, 2012). Disaster plans can improve the ability of communities to prepare for disasters with emergency and response plans, training, and communication systems to enhance various actors’ awareness of their roles and practicing regularly (Perry & Lindell, 200315). For this purpose, mitigation plans can help communities identify various vulnerabilities, hazards, and risks, and to consider various structural and non-structural solutions to reduce the impact of disasters, such as casualty and property loss (Frazier et al., 201316).

In addition to mitigation plans, recovery plans are essential for communities to guide temporary and long-term efforts such as temporary shelters, debris removal, structure restorations and redevelopment, and long-term mitigation considerations (Berke & Campanella, 200617). Previous studies found that recovery actions occur under the pressure of time and the flow of resources to the impacted region (Olshansky et al., 201218; Shaw, 201419). Hence, preparing pre-disaster plans can help communities manage redevelopment efforts better, as well as involve local planning agencies and various stakeholders in recovery processes (Berke et al., 201420).

However, few communities invest in pre-disaster planning. This planning is often constrained by communities’ poor risk awareness (Berke et al., 2014); lack of overall disaster planning culture (Berke & Campanella, 2006); lack of accurate and up-to-date data and information to anticipate post-disaster trends (Quay, 201021); lack of funding (Johnson, 201422); poor organizational capacity and information sharing; and previous experience with disasters (Kapucu & Garayev, 2011; Miller & Douglass, 201623). Hence, this limitation is exacerbated in near-experience communities which lacks previous experience of major disasters and therefore, may be less aware of the potential risks.

While policies in the United States emphasize comprehensive and integrated disaster management, institutional arrangements often preclude integration. Policies and programs tend to be more reactive and focus on problem-solving in response to recent disasters. The lack of mental models of disasters (i.e., the networks of causes and effects that describe how disaster governance operates) are typically derived from actual emergency experience, which calls for more inter-organizational collaboration in terms of planning. Moreover, disaster policies are based an assumption that housing recovery will be regulated by the market as in non-disaster times (Comerio, 201424; Zhang & Peacock, 200925). Hence, long-term housing recovery is not emphasized in pre-disaster recovery plans. This absence deserves further investigation and calls for additional pre-disaster planning.

Housing recovery is one of the essential aspects of disaster recovery planning, as it plays a central role in the recovery of individuals and households after a disaster. However, not all social groups have the same access to housing (Bolin & Stanford, 199126; Comerio, 2014; Peacock et al., 200727; Quarantelli, 199528). Studies show that marginalized communities find it harder to access resources, express collective needs, and engage in recovery decision-making (Kamel & Loukaitou-Sideris, 200429). Socially vulnerable populations are typically less prepared for disasters, have fewer affordable shelter options during evacuation, face prolonged displacement, and experience slower housing recovery than other groups (Fothergill & Peek, 200430; Hamideh & Rongerude, 201831; Van Zandt et al., 201232; Zhang & Peacock, 2009). This issue is exacerbated for people reliant on public housing since they have no control over the reconstruction and recovery of their housing units.

While research on post-disaster housing policy and planning grew in the last few years (Comerio, 199733; Hamideh et al., 201834; Peacock et al., 2007, 2017; Zhang & Peacock, 2009), there is little known about disaster planning in communities with near-experience of disasters. There are relatively few studies that focus on post-disaster public housing recovery (Davlasheridze & Miao, 202135; Graham, 201236, 202037; Hamideh & Rongerude, 2018; Khajehei, 201938). People who rely on public housing are at risk of experiencing more damage and longer displacement after a disaster (Graham, 2012; Hamideh & Rongerude, 2018), making research in this area paramount to understanding social vulnerability in the context of disasters. The few existing disaster studies on people who rely on public housing focus on recovery trajectories (Graham, 2012; Hamideh & Rongerude, 2018), not the policies and plans determining the recovery trajectory. Moreover, limited studies investigate the policies and plans in near-experience communities. We attempt to fill this gap and focus on pre-disaster planning for post-disaster public housing recovery in near-experience communities.

Research Questions

In this study, we focus on factors that have contributed to near-experience communities’ program creation, adoption, and structure for public housing recovery after disasters. Informed decisions and alternatives can result in a safer, more sustainable community following a disaster (Olshansky, 2005; Schwab et al., 199839). A well-organized reconstruction process supported with reliable data can make the aftermath of a disaster manageable and give the public a sense that someone oversees and responds during the recovery process, even in the long-term. This planning for long-term reconstruction after a disaster may involve focusing on implementation details (Schwab et al., 1998). Thus, we aim to explore challenges, opportunities, and coordination between various entities in planning for recovery. In this regard, this research study asks three following specific questions:

  1. What plans, policies, and programs have near-experience communities adopted to house their public housing residents following a disaster?
  2. What are the challenges and opportunities of planning for public housing recovery in near-experience communities?

Research Design

We used a case study approach to uncover a general understanding of our research questions, which allude to the complex nature of disaster planning. Additionally, case studies provide an opportunity to give deep insights to research questions by investigating a specific case (Creswell & Poth, 201840). The study explores disaster policies, programs, and plans of cities in Utah County, Utah, for rehousing people who rely on public housing as a near-experience community.

We collected data using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with local officials in local emergency management, city planning, and housing departments of Utah County and selected cities within the county. These key informants were selected based on purposive and snowball sampling from January to March 2023. The following sections provides more information about the study area, interview settings, and the analysis method.

Study Site and Access

Utah County is located at the Wasatch front and adjacent to Salt Lake County. The County constitute of 10 cities with a population or 700,000, making it one of Utah’s largest counties. Most of the population, around 92%, are white. Around 8% of the population are elderly adults, and 31% of the population are below 18 years old. Moreover, around 8% of population live below poverty line (Census Bureau, 202141). Based on our interviews, approximately 500 public housing units and more than 1,000 Housing Choice Vouchers are managed by Utah County Housing Authority and Provo City Housing Authority.

Utah County has a high probability of experiencing a high magnitude (6.5-7.5) earthquake in the next 50 years (Wong et al., 201642). Recently, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the city of Magna in Salt Lake County in March 2020, resulting in $62 million building-related damages, and contributing to $629 million in total economic losses related to buildings (Utah, n.d.43). This event co-occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic and raised concerns about the region’s preparedness for re-housing residents.

Utah County is also experiencing medium-scale wildfires. At the time of this report, the most recent wildfire occurred in 2018 in the southern part of the county (Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge) and resulted in the evacuation of 6,000 to 10,000 people (Imlay, 201844). We consider this county to be a near-experience community since it carries high hazard risk of earthquake and wildfire but has either experienced only low-to-moderate severity disasters or indirect impact from a nearby affected community (Magna earthquake).

Data Collection: Our data collection involved conducting semi-structured, open-ended interviews with 12 officials working in local emergency management, city planning, county housing departments, and a few selected cities within the county. These cities were identified based on the emergency response plans and hazard mitigation plans adopted by the state of Utah, Utah County, ten cities in the county, and the Wasatch Front region to reflect different levels of planning for post-disaster housing.

Sampling Strategy

We identified key informants using purposive and snowball sampling techniques. We first prepared a list of local officials involved in emergency management, disaster or hazard mitigation planning, housing and community development, and public housing administration in Utah County and ten cities within the county. We then recruited other interviewees based on snowball sampling with the help of the participants of our study.

Participant Recruitment and Consent

To recruit interviewees, we initially contacted our potential participants via email, introduced the study, and solicited participation. This initial contact provided details of the study, gauged interest in participation and the availability for a possible phone or Zoom interview at a future time. We also sent a consent form to our potential participants via email to provide them more information about the interview process and their participation. We then sent a follow-up email to interested participants to schedule an interview and provide a consent form for their review. We conducted our interviews from January to March 2023. Interviews began by obtaining verbal confirmation of voluntary participation and answering any questions related to the project.

Interview Guide and Setting

We provided interviewees with a list of potential interview questions, and stated that our interviews focused on whether various agencies are aware of the need for planning for post-disaster housing, their actions to date, the barriers they face in planning, and any creative solutions they may have implemented. We also reiterated our purpose in conducting this study: to identify barriers to the institutional arrangements needed for disaster governance of public housing recovery, with the aim to build response capacity.

All interviews were conducted virtually via Zoom and telephone calls. Interviews began with obtaining participants' verbal confirmation of voluntary participation. The interviews were between 20 and 60 minutes long and were audio recorded for notetaking purposes. All audio files were pseudonymized and then sent to HomePro Transcribing, a professional transcription service.

Data Analysis Procedures

We conducted a content analysis on the transcripts using ATLAS.ti software. Initially, we read through all transcripts thoroughly before beginning the coding process. In the first coding round, we used open coding techniques, coding all transcripts and writing analytical memos to draw out themes. As a result, we developed categories and subcategories for subsequent rounds of coding. We then used codes to categorize themes into groups based on the research questions, including housing recovery and preparedness in general, public housing in Utah County, public housing recovery, and public housing preparedness. This set of codes examined connections and patterns in the data on planning for post-disaster rehousing of people who rely on public housing. Additionally, the coding system provided insights into the barriers and opportunities for post-disaster public housing recovery planning. It allowed us to formulate preparedness recommendations for disaster governance in similar at-risk communities.

Ethical Considerations and Researcher Positionality

This study received an Institutional Review Board (IRB) exemption determination from the (IRB) of the University of Utah on December 15, 2022. Participation in interviews was voluntary and all interviews were conducted with informed consent. Participants’ identities were kept confidential during all stages of the study.

This study was conducted by a doctoral student in urban planning (Sayma Khajehei) and an urban planner (Divya Chandrasekhar). Khajehei, has expertise in public housing recovery needs and the role of various institutions in the recovery of this community. Chandrasekhar’s research investigates community capacity for disaster recovery networking and coordination among recovery institutions. While the study was conducted by a single discipline team, the findings will be of interest to various fields, including urban planning, emergency management, disaster planning, housing policy, and community development. The authors plan to return the study’s findings and results to the community. Thus, they will publish the results in peer-reviewed academic journals in the field of urban planning and public administration as well as sharing the report with the state and county emergency managers and public housing authorities.


Our findings demonstrated that there is no plan for the rehousing of people who rely on public housing in Utah County. The public sector does not have any assessment of how many people who need public housing may be displaced in case of a major disaster, their shelter needs, emergency response requirements, or rehousing options. Local officials mentioned that their emergency response ability highly depends on the type of disaster and how fast they can recover the units for rehousing people. The preparedness plans are also limited to providing residents with basic needs (e.g., shelter, food, water, etc.) in case of a disaster, and temporary shelter plans are highly dependent on federal resources. The interviewees reported that even in non-disaster contexts, they have a limited stock of emergency housing for the people depending on public housing, which will be a critical issue during a disaster. One of the key informants elaborated on this issue as follows:

“We really haven’t done any studies or anything for emergency response.[…] It’s a tough situation in Utah County because...they don’t believe that it should be a major focus of theirs.[…] So it really depends on the type of disaster, but we’re looking at things like making sure we have backup generators, and the ability to purify water and to be able to have the basics available. The problem in emergency housing...[…] If you get a major disaster,then that’s where FEMA comes in and they bring all these temporary shelters and that’s really the only model you can do. […] We’re looking more at how we would help people move out, have water, belongings, food, necessities other than housing because there’s just not an answer for that, as far as we can do with our resources.” - Particpant “R”

Key informants also believed that pre-disaster planning for post-disaster public housing recovery is challenged by limited communication and coordination among various sectors that are involved in public housing and emergency management. The Housing Authority of Utah County is a standalone quasi-governmental entity separate from other county departments in terms of office and budget. HUD provides its budget, and its plans are also separate from other public entities. Any internal plans the county may have for its emergency response for their staff are separate from those of the housing authority. The housing authority additionally has no written policy or drill practice for staff or residents in the face of disasters.

The public housing authority works with various organizations to help people obtain public housing and basic needs. These partners range from faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, and nonprofits to private companies and public entities. However, the public housing authority does not have any formal agreement or coordination with these organizations for pre-disaster planning. Emergency managers in Utah County are aware of these various actors’ roles during the emergency, but they have not established any formal relationships with them to prepare for a major disaster and rehouse public housing residents, specifically. As one of the interviewees stated:

“We don’t have agreements with them because they don’t sign it beforehand, but if we have a need, we can contact our emergency management contacts […] to establish sheltering function. There are faith-based organizations. There are educational institutions. There are private sector.[…]And so when we’re looking far and wide, it’s not just people like myself or large groups. […] So it’s not just, open the book and say, oh, this is the person’s name; we HAVE to establish relationships before that emergency or disaster happens, to have the conversation and understanding--clarify expectations.” - Participant "C"

Interviewees indicated that organizations want to prepare pre-disaster plans for post-disaster public housing recovery in the region; however, these organizations need HUD’s leadership to guide the process. For example, one of the interviewees mentioned that having a general outline from HUD would be helpful and housing authorities may use or tailor that outline based on their size and needs. Based on our interviews, none of the key informants are aware of or have seen the Public Housing Agency (PHA) Disaster Readiness, Response, and Recovery (D3R) Guidebook, which is the primary resource for PHAs to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster (HUD, 2022). This lack of awareness is important since the most recent update of the guidebook, published in September 2022, clarifies PHAs’ roles and responsibilities, emphasizing communication and collaboration.

Interviewees indicated that funding is also a challenge for preparing pre-disaster and post-disaster public housing recovery plans. The key informants in the emergency management sector and public housing entities mentioned the need to define a specific budget for this planning. Public housing authorities revealed that their regular budget is limited to the daily needs of the units and administrative requirements, making the near-experience communities’ resources and expertise to assist in planning for public housing recovery reliant on other funding sources. As one of the key informants stated in the interview:

“But if HUD had the resources...I hate to put more work on people that’s unfunded mandates, but if they said, ‘you have to have some type of a plan in place’ then you would obviously be required to do that. But again, that’s hard to do just because we don’t have the expertise and we don’t have the staffing and the money to do that.” - Participant "V"

Organizational capacity limitations such as staffing, time, and expertise also stifle pre-disaster planning for public housing recovery. Public housing agencies in the county are understaffed and they need to assign new employees who have expertise to work through pre-disaster plans and prepare them for the agency.

Moreover, current planning issues that communities face, such as limited sources of affordable housing in Utah County, make it difficult for this near-experience community to prioritize pre-disaster planning for public housing recovery. A few of the key informants stated that the county faces a shortage of affordable housing, and meeting this immediate need is their priority over pre-disaster planning. However, some other local officials believe that planning for disaster should be a priority. For example, one of the interviewees said:

“If we wait to work to solve that problem, we will never get a plan, because once this particular problem “ends” there’s going to be some other housing issue. I believe that they need to run concurrently. So people who say, “You know what, we need to make sure that we have affordable housing.” Before we start thinking about disaster planning, we need to take care of this other problem first, no. I think disasters don’t wait. They kind of do their own thing. So I think planning for disaster should be a priority. In our culture, in our community, people generally are aware of disaster planning, but it’s for their own individual home, or it might be in their neighborhood.” - Participant "K"

In addition to challenges, the study’s participants discussed some opportunities in terms of preparing pre-disaster plans for post-disaster public housing recovery. For example, all the interviewees mentioned that recent disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires in the county, have increased their risk awareness and showed them the gaps they have in rehousing socially vulnerable populations in the community, such as those who live in public housing. These disasters made them think about the complexity of recovery processes and consider updates for their emergency plans. For example, one of the interviewees said:

“Looking at things like COVID-19 and looking at these fires, as we looked at it, we had a protocol to follow, but it didn’t necessarily account for how large our population is. The natural disasters that we have had, we’ve been very lucky that the community has stepped up, and so it’s been all taken care of. I recognize about fall of last year we started looking at this and I thought, “What if everybody was in crisis at the same time,” right? With COVID-19, not everybody had someone who was sick at the same time. There were some families that were healthy and they could help those that were sick, right? With a wildfire, if your area wasn’t burning, you could help those people who it was. In case of something like an earthquake, we would definitely need to have bigger plans, which is why we’re updating them right now.” - Participant "A"

Recent experiences of disasters provided the community with an opportunity for institutional learning. Almost all of the interviewees mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic made them more conscious of disasters, prompting them to consider possible operational changes and flexibility in their logistics and build partnerships to serve the community better. For example, interviewees mentioned about the partnership with hotels for non-congregate short-term sheltering which can be established for the case of possible disasters in the future.

However, these plans and partnerships focus on improving short-term sheltering and better provision of basic and health needs in shelters based on the pandemic experience. While this awareness is important and beneficial, it is not extended to other likely hazards in the community. There is also no plan or consideration for specific needs of socially vulnerable populations such as individuals who live in public housing. These considerations could include accessibility needs, medication and health care for patients with chronic diseases, and social services that they might need during their stay in shelters.


We found that Utah County as a near-experience community is generally not prepared for public housing recovery after disasters. This unpreparedness is mostly because of the lack of experience of a major disaster in this county’s contemporary history. While COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk awareness in this county, there are still gaps that need to be focused on to better plan for future disasters. This finding confirms previous studies that found communities tend to be better prepared for disasters if they have experienced a disaster previously (e.g., Wachinger et al., 201345), and that preparedness efforts result from the most recent or more frequent disasters, instead of all possible future disasters they are at risk to (Greer, 201246). On one hand, our study shows that pre-disaster planning efforts of the public sector are made difficult by a lack of planning coordination and leadership, inadequate funding sources for planning, limited knowledge, and staff capacity of organizations involved in public housing recovery.

On the other hand, the findings suggest some opportunities for pre-disaster planning for public housing recovery after disasters. These opportunities include the rising risk awareness among various organizations due to the pandemic and their recent small-to-medium scale disasters. Many organizations built partnerships with one another because of these disasters. This finding confirms the importance of institutional learning through the experience of disasters and motivating various organizations to prepare plans for bigger disaster experiences. This opportunity act as a call for action to conduct collective disaster planning for public housing recovery through collaboration among various actors in near-experience communities. This collective action can help near-experience communities to improve their disaster governance, which is often reactive and tends to focus on solving issues revealed by a current disaster.

The findings also emphasize the importance of separate sources of funding, leadership, and access to federal government guidelines to help near-experience communities prepare collaborative plans and more inclusive initiatives for their at-risk communities’ housing recovery, specifically for individuals who reside in public housing. The local public sector in near-experience communities can assist in disaster planning and public housing recovery by preparing joint plans, involving diverse communities in the planning process, committing funding to such activities, educating the public about mitigation savings, and reviewing existing response and recovery protocols whenever possible. Highlighting the importance of public housing recovery to the community will encourage public sector investment in disaster preparedness and improve recovery outcomes for public housing residents after disasters.


Implications for Practice or Policy

We conclude that governments and organizations must prepare pre-disaster plans for public housing recovery in near-experience communities. Inter-organizational pre-disaster planning is essential to public housing recovery outcomes so that the public sector can play a crucial role. To this end, the public sector can apply a coordinated planning approach to prepare pre-disaster plans for public housing recovery in which various institutions work together to influence decisions on long-term resilience for at-risk communities. It is possible to start this process by preparing joint plans with the help of public housing authorities and residents to identify all possible institutions that may be necessary to participate in the recovery process. This can facilitate forward movement and direct funding to such projects.

This initiative can be carried out by using the HUD’s updated public housing agency disaster readiness, response, and recovery guidebook (HUD, 2022). The guidebook aims to fill in information gaps regarding federal departments and assistance, the operating and capital funds of public housing authorities, and administrative plans for housing choice vouchers. Our interviews show that the near-experience communities, such as Utah County, are not familiar with these guidelines due to their limited experience of disasters. Hence, this research and similar findings can bring attention of the public housing agencies to such guidelines to increase their preparedness for a possible disaster.

Taking advantage of opportunities to more closely examine current response and recovery plans, the public sector must educate community members about mitigation savings and the specific vulnerabilities of people who rely on public housing. The federal government’s investments, like the recent $65 Billion funding of the Build Back Better Act for affordable housing may fulfill unmet needs of public housing agencies and increase their ability to invest in pre-disaster planning. This investment can greatly improve recovery outcomes for people living in public housing after disasters, and in the process, encourage communities to contribute to pre-disaster planning. These recommendations are aligned with the goals of HUD’s Climate Action Plan, released as a part of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to responding climate crisis and building more resilient communities. Consequently, people who live in public housing in near-experience communities will experience improved recovery outcomes as a result.


Data was collected via interviews with key informants. Therefore, there is a potential for bias in how respondents answered the questions and how results were reported. This study is also limited by its focus on a single case study, which is a continuation of a previous study in Salt Lake County. The findings of the study can be enhanced by considering multiple case studies in similar communities.

Future Research Directions

Future studies may examine the preparedness levels of other at-risk communities and identify gaps in that community’s preparedness. It would be beneficial for planners to have more information regarding the barriers to pre-disaster planning for at-risk communities to be able to make better decisions. Collecting post-disaster public housing recovery cases around the United States in future studies will provide housing authorities in at-risk communities with a better understanding of the benefits and costs associated with pre-disaster planning to enhance those housing authorities’ performance.


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Suggested Citation:

Khajehei, S., & Chandrasekhar, D. (2023). Pre-Disaster Planning for Post-Disaster Public Housing Recovery: Near-Experience Communities (Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Report Series, Report 356). Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder.

Khajehei, S., & Chandrasekhar, D. (2023). Pre-Disaster Planning for Post-Disaster Public Housing Recovery: Near-Experience Communities (Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Report Series, Report 356). Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder.