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Temporarily Permanent

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Temporarily Permanent

Fifteen years after Hurricane Andrew, the temporary FEMA trailers that were put in place are still being used for housing. No matter how we strive, no matter how much we tear down and replace, no matter how we Americans fall passionately in love with the new and updated, we still end up with a built environment pockmarked by ugly temporary housing.


By Paul Deffenbaugh February 28, 2006
This article first appeared in the PB March 2006 issue of Pro Builder.

 
Fifteen years after Hurricane Andrew, the temporary FEMA trailers that were put in place are still being used for housing. No matter how we strive, no matter how much we tear down and replace, no matter how we Americans fall passionately in love with the new and updated, we still end up with a built environment pockmarked by ugly temporary housing.

Now, after Hurricane Katrina, we have a housing crisis of even greater proportion than after Andrew. Of the 72,000 FEMA trailers put in place and occupied by Gulf Coast residents, how many do you imagine will still be sitting there 15 years from now? Half? A quarter?

In the end, those trailers will become a blight on the visual landscape of America. The value of the land will far outstrip the value of the residences, and the people living there will be spending their dollars almost entirely on renting land, not a home. This is a problem that we in the housing industry need to address.

I am not condemning the use of FEMA trailers to house people who have had their homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. As a country, we need to help these victims become stabilized so they can begin to move back into the routine of working, taking care of their children and living a more normal life. Life in a hotel room is far from normal because it is so drastically temporary and poorly suited to long-term residence.

A FEMA trailer is only slightly better than a hotel room. It does give people a more permanent place in the community by creating a stronger perch, but those trailers do not provide the kind of living environment that inspires people to greater achievement.

That sentiment may sound a little high falutin, but I am a firm believer that a comfortable, secure and tranquil home provides such a strong grounding, that people — especially children — feel the confidence and security to test themselves against the wider world. If you have a place to retreat that reaffirms you and provides you sanctuary, your forages into the world around will be more productive and more effective in the betterment of the overall community.

The housing industry provides homes, and homes are sanctuaries. A sanctuary has to have permanence. In this month's issue, we report on the efforts by architect Andrés Duany and others to create Katrina Cottages for the displaced Gulf Coast residents. I encourage all of you to support this and other similar efforts to move the Katrina victims as quickly into permanent housing as we can. We are not doing it just for them. We can do it for ourselves.


Author Information
630.288.8190, paul.deffenbaugh@reedbusiness.com

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