Navigator Insights

Key readiness factors that influence mainstream disaster risk reduction in the housing sector

Housing is often the sector severely impacted by both hydro-meteorological and geophysical disasters. On a macro scale, housing sector accounts for 10-50% of total disaster losses and often have significant impact on the livelihoods of especially the poor in developing countries.

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in the housing sector would mean that all housing related interventions have considered the effect of natural hazards (current as well as future risks magnified by climate change) and of the impact of those interventions in turn, on vulnerability to natural hazards, and accordingly have adopted risk reduction measures (RCC Guidelines 2011).

This requires evaluation of hazards, vulnerability and risks and impact on housing and addressing it through appropriate mitigation measures.

Mainstreaming means incorporating disaster risk reduction measures at various levels including at the policy, legislative, operational and the community level.

Key entry points for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction are:

Housing Policy: This is the key national strategic requirement that emphasises the need to address housing issues faced by the country. Within the context of disaster risk reduction it often emphasises the need to have a regulatory framework in place to ensure resilience of houses, as well as recommends an approach that embraces hazard and vulnerability responsive housing.

Building codes and regulations: This is a fundamental requirement to ensure compliance of the houses to a certain structural and design standard to be resilient to hazards. However, the feasibility of compliance of building codes and regulations is often limited in rural areas in developing countries due to limited technical human resources and road access. A classification system of building codes has been successful in countries like Nepal where simple incentive based compliance mechanism have been practiced.

Strengthening and retrofitting: It is evident that minor changes to the existing building stock can result in significant reduction in the building vulnerability. Mapping the nature of the existing housing typology in the most hazard prone areas and suggesting strengthening measures will go a long way in making the building stock resilient to disasters.

As an example, in Bangladesh, a post-flood housing reconstruction project introduced capping of traditional earth plinths with cement-stabilized soil, which proved effective in subsequent floods (Department for International Development and Practical Action Bangladesh 2010).

Land use planning: In order to effectively prepare construction regulations, resistant designs and building codes/safer practices, it is critical to understand the type of risk in a given area. Risk based land use planning can be an effective tool for managing disaster risks and provides the basis for authorities to strengthen regulatory framework, bye-laws, land-use plans and promotes disaster resistant design, construction and planning practices.

Disaster risk finance: There are less than 5% of houses in developing countries that have access to disaster risk insurance. There is an urgent need to create an enabling environment and raise community awareness regarding the advantages of such insurance.

In Vietnam, where Development Workshop has supported the introduction of targeted credit for poor families specifically for the preventive strengthening of their homes, the high level of demand and good repayments have shown that poor families are very ready to borrow to strengthen their homes because they recognise that by doing so they have protected their families and their income generation capacity.