housing upgrades after disasters

In light of yesterday's blog about stronger homes for stronger tornadoes, I've been thinking about two related issues.

Issue one is the added cost for safety.

Hurricane straps make a difference, as would basements, or safe rooms. In an interview on NPR yesterday with the former mayor of Joplin, Missouri, Mike Woolston, he talked about the burden poorer people would bear if the building code was changed to require safe rooms. Joplin was severely damaged by a monster tornado two years ago.
BLOCK: You mentioned rebuilding there in Joplin. And I wonder if - as people are rebuilding, do you find that they are building any differently? Are they making their homes any - possibly any safer than they were before, adding safe rooms or storm shelters? WOOLSTON: I think quite a few people are adding safe rooms, and I think probably more of them at least talking about it. There was some effort moving forward shortly after the storm to have safe rooms required in all new construction. The city council declined to make that requirement out of concern that it might drive the price of housing up above where somebody could still afford it or whatever. Certainly, we encouraged people to do that. And we, in fact, did make a couple of small changes in our building codes in that we required hurricane straps on roofs now that we didn't before. The number of anchor bolts in a foundation that actually holds the framing down to the foundation, we doubled the number of those as opposed to what we had pre-storm.
In light of economic stimulus, I think it would be in our country's best interests to subsidize safer housing. But that leads to issue two.

Issue two is asking the government for money. This is the ironic position Oklahoma's senators find themselves in.
Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.
The saying goes, "everyone's a libertarian until their street floods." The amount of money our federal government has poured into the economy is so massive, that funding alternative construction for entire communities, would only be a trickle. On the other hand, since we rescued banks from their housing bubble hi-jinks, why don't they share a trickle of their profits with those in need of housing?

Alternative housing construction does not have the scale to reach a tipping point and become mainstream. But focused funding in areas devastated by weather could provide that, which would enable a decreased dependence on fossil fuels and free up money that is committed to energy bills.
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