The wide-spread and wide-scale destruction to homes, community organizations, and businesses in the wake of a major disaster cannot be overstated.

All across the United States, countless communities have been faced with the daunting task of rebuilding. Federal, state and local leaders, planning and housing authorities, utility companies, insurance agents, and property owners are faced with the challenge of balancing the need to quickly get displaced families back in their homes while assessing long-term sustainability land-use issues and ensuring that rebuilding practices are meeting the most up-to-date building codes for resiliency and mitigation standards.

  • Special populations, including low-income families and seniors, individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, are at an even greater risk of being displaced from their homes for a protracted period of time.
  • Working and middle-class families whose homes are severely damaged in a disaster face the real threat of entering into a cascading cycle of poverty due to the overwhelming hardship of being temporarily displaced and the crushing demands of financing the rebuild of their homes and small businesses.
Homes here were rebuilt as part of the Rebuilding Union Beach Project following Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Kevin Chu + Jessica Paul LLP 3 (

Homes here were rebuilt as part of the Rebuilding Union Beach Project following Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Kevin Chu + Jessica Paul LLP 3 (

  • Financial resources for rebuilding may be available from:
    • FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency grants for individuals;
    • FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for communities;
    • Small Business Association loans;
    • HUDFederal Office of Housing and Urban Development grants and 203(h) and 203(k) mortgages;
    • State Community Development Block Grants (federal disaster funding);
    • Homeowners insurance;
    • National Flood Insurance Program; and
    • Grants from Long Term Recovery Groups (last resort funding).

“Strength of the Storm” follows the stories of eight residents of Vermont’s Weston Mobile Home Park as they rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene back in 2011. Video courtesy of Strength of the Storm, VT.

Innovative Practices

Philanthropy can implement and/or support programs such as:

  • Temporary and permanent housing for vulnerable populations;
  • Affordable housing solutions;
  • Modular home demonstration projects;
  • Counseling centers for homeowners to understand their rights, grants and financing available to them, how to choose a licensed contractor, etc.
  • Gap funding and funding to support the work of the Long Term Recovery Groups which pay for essential building components of homes but only after all other resources have been exhausted (including insurance claims, federal and state aid, and FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency grants);
  • Case Management and Unmet Needs Committees;
  • Community-wide education programs;
  • Research, analysis, and development of a Housing Recovery Plan for the community or region.

Tips on how to address housing following a disaster from community foundation experts.

Key Takeaways

  1. Philanthropies nationwide have helped hundreds of communities rebuild in the wake of a disaster.
  2. Philanthropy has the opportunity to take the long-view and promote smarter, resilient and more sustainable building practices that not only help communities recover but improve outcomes around building resiliency in future disasters.
  3. Philanthropy can educate its community on the financial resources available for rebuilding and the criteria and parameters surrounding the use of these monies.
  4. Working in partnership with government, social justice leaders, environmentalists, urban planners, long term recovery groups, and case managers, philanthropies can ensure a fair, just, equitable and resilient recovery for all citizens.
  5. Grantmakers can provide gap funding and critical unmet needs funding.

Listen to Enterprise Community Partners Resiliency Speakers Series: Resident Engagement for Seniors During Disasters