Lessons from the Storm: Climate Displacement Three Years After Hurricane Sandy

This report by the Center for American Progress assesses the recovery of New York’s and New Jersey’s middle- and low-income communities three years after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region in 2012. The report analyzes the challenges encountered by state and city leaders to help reduce displacement of people in the days and years following the storm, as well as innovative policies that emerged to prevent future extreme weather and climate displacement. The Center also highlights the important role that community groups play as citizen first responders, liaisons to government officials, and in long-term housing and recovery efforts. Recommendations are given for cities and states engaging in climate resilience planning in order to avoid displacement, and equitably strengthen communities through:

Understand what factors put people at risk of long-term displacement following an extreme weather event. 

  • Efforts to fortify hard and soft infrastructure
  • Programs that prioritize keeping or returning people to their homes to prevent climate displacement
  • Analysis, support, and integrated planning with community organizations that can assist communities before and after an extreme weather event
  • Initiatives to incorporate affordable housing needs with climate resilience and anti-displacement measures

Low-income communities are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events due to several factors described in the report - including: living in less resilient housing stock, the precarious nature of wage-based earnings during and after disasters, environmental markers such as susceptibility to heat waves or nearby industrial sites, and restricted mobility or communication options.

The report also details the implementation of government resilience programs targeting displacement in response to Hurricane Sandy.  Some of the successes and struggles of the following programs are described:

  • New York Rapid Repairs
  • New York City Build it Back Program
  • The New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery - New York Rising Program
  • ReNew Jersey Stronger
  • Voluntary buyout programs including the NY Rising Buyout and Acquisition Program and the New Jersey Blue Acres program

The Center found that Sandy pushed some New York and New Jersey communities to foster a greater sense of social cohesion for the recovery process, and to help them build resilience to future climate threats. Meanwhile, other communities voluntarily chose to take advantage of buy backs and to disintegrate their communities in order to prevent future public safety disasters.

The role of community organizations in improving resilience and preventing displacement is discussed also. The report offers insights on how these organizations improve emergency response, government and private-sector collaboration to prevent climate displacement, rental and housing assistance, legislative advocacy, and citizens associations and buyouts. 


Publication Date: October 28, 2015

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  • Monitoring
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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