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On The Gulf Coast, Repeated Natural Disasters Don't Just Destroy Structures; They Damage The American Dream

040121_TS_harvey
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
/
KUT News
Buildings damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

For many Texans, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey, or last month’s once-in-a-lifetime winter storm, are making it harder to continue pursuing the American dream of home ownership

New York Times reporter Rick Rojas traveled to Houston, where he found that houses are no longer the financial safety net they were intended to be, especially for Black homeowners. He told Texas Standard that many Gulf Coast residents whose homes have been damaged by multiple natural disasters, are stuck.

“They can’t afford insurance, they can’t afford to move and there are the sort of sentimental bonds that are holding them there as well,” Rojas said. “So it’s less them making a conscious decision to stay in a place, or to put themselves in a situation, than it is just not having enough resources to change their situation.”

Rojas says government and nonprofit assistance exists in Houston. Organizations work to untangle complicated ownership situations related to homes that have been in families for generations, and that may not be adequately insured.

“It’s very hard to get what you need put together to successfully apply for government support,” Rojas said.

Many people of color have been drawn to Houston from small-town Texas, Rojas says, by the promise of a better life and the opportunity to find a solid working-class job. Buying a home provided a means of creating and preserving family wealth.

“That opportunity has just caved in on itself,” Rojas said.