Washed Out: Policy and Practical Considerations Affecting Return after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy

Nicholas S Bryner, Marisa Garcia-Lozano, Carl Bruch


The destructive impacts of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy displaced large numbers of people. While some families were able to return home soon after the disasters, others struggled to do so and remained displaced for extended periods of time. Although much attention has been paid to the immediate response to natural disasters, research on policies and practices regarding long-term return migration has been largely overlooked. This article presents an overview of recent literature that addresses factors affecting displaced individuals’ decision to return home or relocate following these two disasters. It discusses five major factors influencing individual and household decisions regarding whether to return home, relocate, or remain in limbo if unable to achieve either. These include: (1) habitability of homes; (2) affordability of housing; (3) financial burdens; (4) slow restoration of public services and facilities; and (5) sense of place and identity. The article then assesses the types of policies that have been used with varying goals—promoting, discouraging, and, in some cases, prohibiting return. It presents four examples of policy tools that have influenced post-disaster return or relocation after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy: (1) tax policies; (2) buyouts; (3) changes to building codes; and (4) revisions to the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program. The article concludes that a better understanding of factors affecting displaced persons can help policymakers meet their objectives of encouraging or inhibiting return to a specific site after a disaster.

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FEMA: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jad.v3i1.10590


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