Research Report Housing Resilience in Greater New Orleans
Perceptions of and Home Adaptations to Climate Hazards in Post-Katrina Louisiana
Carlos Martín, Claudia D. Solari, Anne N. Junod, Rebecca Marx
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Housing is a first line of defense, especially for households in disaster-exposed regions that have significant pre-existing vulnerabilities and are not equipped to recover from hazard events. The challenge for housing resilience—that is, the capacity of households and their homes to withstand and readily recover from shocks such as hurricanes and floods—is particularly urgent for communities at the frontlines of climate change–induced shocks. These residents must adapt their homes in situ to increase their resilience—a change that requires a combination of professional practices, public policies, and personal behaviors.

This report describes the findings from a substantial effort to document the resilience of housing in the greater New Orleans region between 2008 and 2018. The project focuses on housing services for homebuyers but also references the region’s broader housing history, housing stock, and racially diverse and income-diverse households. The research team selected six dimensions of housing resilience in policy, programming, and practice to study. These six housing resilience dimensions were shaped by the rapidly evolving policy context in the years following Hurricane Katrina—a context that continues to transform amid increasingly frequent and severe hazard events.

Ultimately, housing resilience is untenable where quality, fair, and affordable housing is limited. The report’s takeaways can be used to guide future reforms aimed at equitably improving housing resilience through information campaigns, well-resourced assistance for low-income households, and improved coordination between regional infrastructure, state insurance commissions, and local community organizations.


  1. Equitable protection for the homes behind a community’s protective infrastructure is still elusive. Regional infrastructure improvements put in place since Hurricane Katrina may have lessened overall exposures to hazards such as flooding, but they did not eliminate differences in exposure during the study timeframe, including across racial and ethnic lines.
  2. Community engagement—often conducted as part of the extensive infrastructure and land use planning in post-Katrina New Orleans—remained generally weak on multiple counts.
  3. Housing choice does not align neatly with risk perception for everyone. Households of color were nearly twice as likely to perceive hazard risks, making race and ethnicity the greatest predictor of risk perception. However, there was no difference across racial and ethnic groups in the extent to which people consider risks when making choices related to buying a home.
  4. The provision and receipt of information that might shape risk perception were variable across households. For example, almost half of homebuyers did not consult disclosure statements despite the adoption of Louisiana’s “gold standard” flood disclosure laws after Katrina.
  5. Property insurance remains a primary tool for residential disaster mitigation, but it also provides an increasingly exclusive benefit only available to households that can afford the appropriate coverage. Although the study did not find variations by race/ethnicity or income in the cost and coverage of equivalent policies, it did find apparent differences in claims treatment.
  6. Despite the growth of home retrofit services, service providers, and financial incentives for mitigating future hazard damages, home mitigation remained largely untapped in the region. A household’s reported ability to pay for mitigation was the only significant predictor of action.


Our research examined the overall nature of six dimensions of housing resilience in the face of major environmental change—particularly the effects of climate change—and of differences in access to and quality of services that might improve housing resilience. The six dimensions are: regional infrastructure protections, engagement in community plans, personal risk perceptions, information accessibility, property insurance, and home mitigation actions. The research questions were as follows:

  • Do geographic disparities in the level of infrastructure protection from hazard risks exist in the greater New Orleans area that mirror household-level demographic, housing, or economic differences?
  • Have the community engagement activities of infrastructure, city, and regional planning efforts in post-Katrina greater New Orleans successfully incorporated perspectives representative of the diversity of households and their housing and environmental conditions? Do perceptions of these efforts vary by demographic groups, housing types, and flood risks?
  • Do populations exposed to the same scientifically quantified risk perceive that risk variably? Do these differences shape housing decisions, from home search through purchase and insurance, and mitigation and maintenance activities and behaviors?
  • Do vulnerable groups receive different amounts and quality of information about the risks associated with a home when purchasing? Do they act differently on that information?
  • Do homebuyers believe they are purchasing an appropriate amount of insurance? Do vulnerable groups receive different insurance policies and premium rates and are they treated differently in claims transactions?
  • How does information about disaster mitigation programs reach different residents of occupied homes? Do programs’ use rates differ as a consequence?

The project used mixed-methods data collected from public and proprietary sources; structured interviews, focus groups, and document reviews; and a one-of-a-kind regionally representative survey of homebuyers that requested detailed information on households’ insurance policies, home purchase and ownership activities, risk perceptions, and mitigation actions.

Research Areas Climate change, disasters, and community resilience Housing Housing finance Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Race and equity Social safety net Wealth and financial well-being
Tags Climate adaptation and resilience Community and economic development Community engagement Design and construction quality Disaster recovery and mitigation Economic well-being Environmental justice Equitable development Fair housing and housing discrimination Families with low incomes Family and household data Federal urban policies Federal housing programs and policies Homeownership Impact of crises on housing Inclusive recovery Infrastructure Land use and zoning Neighborhood change Racial and ethnic disparities Racial barriers to housing
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Community Engagement Resource Center Data analysis Data collection Qualitative data analysis Quantitative data analysis Research methods and data analytics
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