National Disaster Resilience Competition Launched

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has launched a $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition. He was joined by Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, in announcing that eligible states and localities can now begin applying for funds. Representatives from eligible communities will have the opportunity to attend Rockefeller-supported Resilience Academies across the country to strengthen their funding proposals.

“The National Disaster Resilience Competition is going to help communities that have been devastated by natural disasters build back stronger and better prepared for the future,” said Secretary Julián Castro. “This competition will help spur innovation, creatively distribute limited federal resources, and help communities across the country cope with the reality of severe weather that is being made worse by climate change.”

“The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to spurring innovation in resilience planning and design so that communities can build better, more resilient futures, particularly for their most vulnerable citizens” said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Building resilience will minimize the impact of the next shock, while also improving life in communities day-to-day, allowing them to yield a resilience dividend. Everyone wins.”

As the recent National Climate Assessment made clear, extreme weather events—including heat waves, drought, tropical storms, high winds, storm surges, and heavy downpours—are becoming more severe. In many places these risks are projected to increase substantially due to rising sea levels and evolving development patterns, causing risks to the safety, health, and economies of entire communities. Events like Hurricane Sandy have made it clear the country remains vulnerable to such events in spite of advances in disaster preparedness. American communities cannot effectively reduce their risks and vulnerabilities without planning for future extreme events and other impacts of climate change after a disaster and in their everyday decision-making.

The National Disaster Resilience Competition makes $1 billion available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. The competition promotes risk assessment and planning and will fund the implementation of innovative resilience projects to prepare communities for future storms and other extreme events. Funding for the competition is from the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) appropriation provided by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 (PL 113-2).

This competition responds to requests from state, local, and tribal leaders who have asked the federal government to help them prepare their communities for the impacts of climate change and support investments in more resilient infrastructure.

All successful applicants will need to tie their proposals to the eligible disaster from which they are recovering. For example, a community that suffered a flood might want to offer flood buyouts and property acquisition in the most impacted and distressed areas, followed by restoration of a wetland to limit future flooding and provide a nature preserve or recreation area. A community that lost housing and a road during a mudslide might not only want to construct housing in a safer area for survivors, but may also find a financing mechanism for affected downstream businesses to survive the effects of the last event and be prepared for and recover more quickly from future hazards.

Partnership with Rockefeller Foundation

One of the winning projects from last year, The Big U, is a protective system around Manhattan. It's design is driven by the needs and concerns of its communities.
One of the winning projects from last year’s Rebuild by Design, The Big U, is a protective system around Manhattan. It’s design is driven by the needs and concerns of its communities.

Given the complexity of the challenge, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will partner with the Rockefeller Foundation to help communities better understand the innovation, broad commitment, and multi-faceted approach that is required to build toward a more resilient future. As they did in HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide targeted technical assistance to eligible communities and support a stakeholder-driven process, informed by the best available data, to identify recovery needs and innovative solutions. The six winning projects selected through the Rebuild by Design competition in June 2014 serve as models of how philanthropic resources and the federal government can be leveraged to support communities recovering from disasters while also strengthening their ability to withstand future disasters.

Eligible Applicants

There are 67 eligible applicants for the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition. All states with counties that experienced a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster in 2011, 2012, or 2013 are eligible to submit applications that address unmet needs as well as vulnerabilities to future extreme events, stresses, threats, hazards, or other shocks in areas that were most impacted and distressed as a result of the effects of the Qualified Disaster. This includes 48 of 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.[1] In addition, 17 local governments that have received funding under PL 113-2 are also eligible. There is a list of eligible applicants here.

The Competition seeks to meet the following six objectives:

  1. Fairly and effectively allocate $1 billion in remaining CDBG-DR funds.[2]
  2. Create multiple examples of modern disaster recovery that apply science-based and forward-looking risk analysis to address recovery, resilience, and revitalization needs.
  3. Leave a legacy of institutionalizing—in as many states and local jurisdictions as possible—the implementation of thoughtful, sound, and resilient approaches to addressing future risks.
  4. Provide resources to help communities plan and implement disaster recovery that makes them more resilient to future extreme weather events or other shocks, while also improving quality of life for existing residents.
  5. Fully engage community stakeholders to inform them about the impacts of climate change and develop pathways to resilience based on sound science.
  6. Leverage investments from the philanthropic community to help communities define problems, set policy goals, explore options, and craft solutions to inform their own local and regional resilient recovery strategies.

[1] Nevada and South Carolina did not have major disaster declarations between 2011-2013.

Overview of Phases

The National Disaster Resilience Competition is a year-long competition structured in two phases: (1) the framing phase and (2) the implementation phase. The competition is structured to guide applicants in the framing phase through broad consideration of their disaster recovery needs, vulnerabilities, stakeholder interests, resilience, and other community development investment alternatives. Then they can refine those needs and design potential solutions in the implementation phase.

  • Phase 1 applications will be due in March 2015. Successful applicants in Phase 1 will be invited to participate in Phase 2 to design solutions for recovery and resilience.
  • Phase 2 applications must also include an analysis for any proposed projects with an account of the social and ecological benefits and costs as a consideration. The best proposals from Phase 2 will receive funds for implementation and will demonstrate how communities across the country can build a more resilient future. HUD expects to make final award announcements in late 2015.

Read more on the National Disaster Resilience Competition.

[1] Public Law 113-2 appropriated $16.0B ($15.2B post-sequester) to HUD in CDBG-DR funds for r disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization. By law, these funds are limited to addressing Presidentially Declared Disasters from 2011-2013. HUD has until 9/30/17 to obligate all funds.