Skip to content

How a Texas Town Is Overhauling Disaster Relief

In Brownsville, a program called RAPIDO places innovative housing design at the center of community resilience.
A RAPIDO core under construction.
A RAPIDO core under construction.bcWORKSHOP

When Hurricane Dolly struck the gulf coast of Texas in 2008, the storm left behind $1.35 billion in damages, much of it inflicted on houses. Over 38,000 families in the Rio Grande Valley applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance with home repairs; around half of those applications were denied.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the poverty rate hovers around 35 percent. It’s one of the poorest regions in the United States, and its coastal location renders it one of the most susceptible to disasters. In the aftermath of such events, low-income people of color may be especially vulnerable. It is FEMA policy to withhold repair money from homes deemed to have been in “substandard condition” prior to the storm. Families who may have lacked the resources to maintain the conditions of their homes are often left with little recourse after a disaster hits.