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An examination of FEMA’s temporary emergency housing program and the criteria used to make site selections in post-Katrina New Orleans

Margaret A. Reams, PhD, Philip J. Chandler, MS


The authors examine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) emergency temporary housing program and its implementation in Orleans Parish during the first months after Hurricane Katrina. They identify environmental and demographic factors that may have influenced the selection of sites for temporary trailer parks. The environmental assessments for each of the sites considered for use were obtained directly from FEMA under the Freedom of Information Act. Socioeconomic characteristics of the communities near the proposed sites were gathered from the US Census Bureau. Using cross-tabulations and difference-of-means tests to make comparisons between the sites selected and those not selected, the authors identify several environmental and socioeconomic factors associated with site selection. None of the selected sites was found to be in an area designated as residential nor were any sites selected that possessed known hazardous wastes or materials or contained habitat critical to endangered species. Also, all of the selected developments involved the installation of fewer than one hundred trailers. The analysis suggests that the trailer parks tended to be built in zip-code areas with slightly lower per capita incomes, although this trend was not reflected in property values. The authors found no evidence that the trailer parks were placed in communities with larger percentages of African American residents. All the sites selected for use passed the environmental reviews as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.


Hurricane Katrina, FEMA housing program, environmental siting factors, emergency housing siting criteria

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