The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) commissioned the Urban Institute to (1) describe completion times across housing recovery activities funded by the Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR); (2) identify factors that contribute to variances in those times; and (3) provide guidance to support grantees in reducing potential lags and improving program launch based on likely contributing factors. The research team explored housing activities across 88 CDBG-DR grants from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2015, including activities for Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
Urban researchers found that housing recovery programs across all housing activity types have taken an average of 3.8 years from declaration to completion overall but with increasingly faster completion over time: the time to grant completion declined 5.4 percent per year across the sample. Specific activities had different rates of completion: housing rehab programs—the most recognized and typically the largest activity—took an average of 3.7 years.
Ultimately, several administrative factors added to recovery challenges and delays qualitatively, particularly those related to grantees’ internal capacity (including staff expertise and turnover, case management systems, and internal political transitions) and CDBG-DR rules (such as procurement, environmental regulations, and monitoring requirements). Many of these rules also vary widely from disaster to disaster since CDBG-DR is not a permanently authorized federal program.
The combination of local capacity constraints and inconsistent application of HUD rules constrains CDBG-DR while its value and importance within US disaster policy has increased since its first use in 1993. The researchers recommend improvements in collaboration and data-sharing across the federal government, HUD’s standardization of program requirements, and better local pre-disaster planning that integrates long-term community goals into post-disaster conditions. These actions could also result in the reduced pressures to trade off faster recovery with better quality recovery.