Disaster Zone

Will Rebuilding After a Disaster Come to an End?

There are a number of negative trending factors to rebuilding after a disaster.

by Eric Holdeman / February 12, 2019

It is the natural American reaction to negative events — We will be back, bigger and better!" Maybe not ...

See this Governing magazine article Why Rebuilding 'Bigger and Better' After Disasters Is a Mistake. It is a great article that touches on many issues that are going to impact people's ability to execute on their desire to "be back."

The first and foremost issue is the increasing frequency, severity and cost of disasters of all types. Severe weather is in a position of ascendency. All extremes are in play, flooding and drought; hurricanes and tornadoes; rainstorms and wildfires; extreme heat and extreme cold — go figure. 

In the end, like most things in life, it will boil down to money. As is our human nature, you will be able to build where you want, but the insurance premiums are going up! And, in some cases, responsible state and local governments are going to step in and enact reasonable limitations on where people live and where they will provide services. The other item needed is better building codes, which to date have been, once again, a local issue. I've had friends chafe at having to pay for building permits and the plan reviews, followed by inspections, mandated by government. They are there to protect you. Watch any home improvement show and you will see many examples of poor building practices that range from electrical to plumbing or even structural safety issues. 

I can also see local governments shirking their civic safety responsibilities all in the name of affordable housing. That debate in Portland most recently over unreinforced masonry buildings (URM) is a good example. They don't want to make people feel bad or to devalue properties by having a sign posted at the entrance that identifies the building as a hazard to people in an earthquake. That type of thinking will extend to other areas of the climate change debate. Civic leaders will rant and rave about the lack of attention at the national level to the impending and actual ongoing impacts of climate change — while failing to act with the authority that they have to adapt to the issues facing their communities. 

Our national government is unfazed by the total cost of disasters and the impact to people or the national budget. They continue to borrow their way to earning votes from their constituents who cry out for government largess when they made personal poor choices. 

Why not mandate that the purchasers of properties sign a declaration that they recognize that the hazards the property they are purchasing is at risk from X and Y? Why not mandate that in the marketing of the properties, declare what the risks are? Real-estate associations unite! Line up your lobbyists and start making campaign donations to the key legislators who have influence on those types of legislative issues. 

Will we stop rebuilding? Yes, but only when we stop subsidizing the poor behavior.