Why Location Matters: How Smarter Decision-Making by Renters and Homebuyers Will Increase Coastal Resilience

Thomas Wahl1, Christopher T. Emrich2, Jacopo Baggio3, Susan L Cutter4, Sergio Alvarez5, Melanie Gall6, Carol Friedland7, Kristy Lewis5, Kelly Klima8, William O'Dell9, Ben Preston8, Michelle Miro10, Colin Polsky11, Melissa Daigle12, James Wilkins12, Tamara L Sheldon13, Niki Pace12, Monica Farris14, Sonia H Stephens15 and Natasha Mendoza16, (1)University of Central Florida, Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering & National Center for Integrated Coastal Research, Orlando, FL, United States, (2)University of Central Florida, School of Public Administration & National Center for Integrated Coastal Research, Orlando, United States, (3)University of Central Florida, United States, (4)University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, United States, (5)University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, United States, (6)Arizona State University, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, Phoenix, United States, (7)Louisiana State University, Bert S. Turner Department of Construction Management, Baton Rouge, United States, (8)RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, United States, (9)University of Florida, United States, (10)University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (11)Florida Atlantic University, Center of Environmental Studies, Boca Raton, FL, United States, (12)Louisiana Sea Grant, United States, (13)University of South Carolina, Economics, Columbia, United States, (14)University of New Orleans, United States, (15)University of Central Florida, English and Texts & Technology, Orlando, FL, United States, (16)Arizona State University, United States
The first line of defense in reducing risk to human life and property is residing in a home protected from natural hazards and their impacts. Safe housing should be equitably available, not just accessible to those knowledgeable enough to seek out information or wealthy enough to built fortified homes. Many residents believe building codes and zoning regulations are designed to keep them safe. Few understand that these regulations are ‘minimum safety standards’ that become quickly outdated as environmental stressors, local development patterns, materials science, and construction practices change. Absent new residential risk disclosures, residents are unlikely to become more knowledgeable regarding the risks and costs associated with living in their residence of choice. If received and acted upon, increased hazard-awareness coupled with actionable mitigation measures positions residents to choose safe dwellings, elevating both household and community resilience in the process.

This presentation will highlight preliminary results and outline the scope of a multi-year project with the overarching goal to assess how to leverage actionable information on disaster risk and mitigation alternatives in pursuit of housing as the new first line of defense. To address this, the research team will (a) test risk information uptake and efficacy in location and housing choices; (b) educate residents (homeowners/tenants) and policy-makers on past, present, and future impacts and appropriate ways to reduce risk and increase resilience; and (c) co-design municipal strategies and policies aimed at building resilient communities and support equitable location/housing decisions. Project activities range from qualitative (focus groups, surveys, interviews), quantitative (choice models, life-cycle cost analysis, etc.) and geospatial (e.g., environmental modelling) techniques to user-centered design of a web-based application (HazardAware).