Wed, Feb 05, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Disasters give cities chance to come back better

By Charles Anderson, Daniel Breece, Tom Dart, Rashmee Roshan Lal  /  The Guardian

Across the city, 134,000 housing units were damaged, but the recovery effort has been fragmented, giving the impression there is no master plan. In the wake of the 2005 flood, money surged into New Orleans. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency provided nearly US$20 billion to help Louisiana recover from Katrina and Rita, the hurricane that hit the city a month later. The levees and floodwalls have been rebuilt at a cost of US$14.5 billion, while the state’s Road Home program claims to have channeled about US$9 billion to more than 130,000 residents.

However, Road Home was beset by administrative problems and was the subject of a discrimination lawsuit settled in 2011 because, typically, it handed out grants based on a home’s pre-Katrina worth, rather than the cost of fixing damage. This was advantageous to people who lived in more expensive, white areas.

“Eight years is a long time,” 63-year-old Errol Joseph said as he gazed at what remains of his home on Forstall Street in the most barren part of the Ninth Ward.

He has lived here most of his life, in a house that is presently a carapace of interlocking wooden beams, with an oddly neat pyramid of rubble in the front yard.

Of course, not everyone came back. The population of New Orleans slumped from 485,000 in 2000 to an estimated 230,000 residents 11 months after Katrina, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. However, by July 2012, it was back up to 369,000.

CHRISTCHURCH

By Charles Anderson

The new Christchurch, which is being marketed as “greener, more compact, more accessible and safer,” will cost in the region of NZ$40 billion (US$32.6 billion) — almost 20 percent of New Zealand’s GDP.

Straight after the 2011 earthquake, the government’s response was to establish a single body, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to be solely responsible for the project, from the demolition of commercial buildings and homes, to planning the next phase of rebuilding.

“If you look around the world at cities which have experienced disasters, it is single-purpose organizations that are the most efficient,” CERA chief executive Roger Sutton said.

In the early period, almost 8,000 of the area’s 180,000 homes were “red zoned,” meaning that the land they were on was so badly damaged that it was unlikely it could ever be rebuilt on. A further 9,100 properties were reckoned to be uninhabitable because they required such major repairs. From June 2010 to June 2012, the population of the Greater Christchurch area fell by 9,200, or 2 percent.

Yet there have been protests over the way CERA has handled the red zoning of residential areas.

In November last year, some homeowners in the hills were warned that their properties were too dangerous to inhabit, after being told the contrary for more than a year. Before the earthquakes, the city center’s retail areas were not competing well with suburban malls.

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