Almost four years after the destruction of Hurricane Ike, the shortage of affordable housing in Galveston remains a major challenge to recovery.

The city of Galveston has a great need to replace its demolished affordable housing stock. Galveston’s “base” of pre-hurricane affordable housing units is relatively small compared to other regions in the U.S., and post-hurricane displacement of low-income families and especially families of color has been extensive.

For example, the city of Galveston lost 16.5 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010. Population loss for whites during this time was 11.4 percent. Population loss for the African-American community during this time was three times greater, with the African-American population declining by 36.7 percent.

Many high opportunity census tracts exist on Galveston Island — in fact, many Galveston public housing sites are closer to high opportunity neighborhoods on the island than they are in other parts of the county.

The majority of Galveston’s public housing sites are less than a half-mile from high opportunity areas. This proximity provides an opportunity to rebuild in a manner that assures continued access to these higher opportunity areas and to potentially anchor broader community revitalization initiatives. 

Unfortunately, the former Oleander public housing site is in a low opportunity area surrounded by incompatible industrial uses. 

It is critical that sufficient public housing units with three and four bedrooms be reconstructed to house families with children. 

Neighborhoods exert their biggest effects on children — a recent study showed that living in a concentrated poverty neighborhood was the equivalent of losing a year of school.

The Kirwan Institute’s opportunity mapping combines data on educational opportunities, economic health and neighborhood stability and health to assess which neighborhoods are ripe with opportunity for individuals and families. Our complete report is available at kirwaninstitute.org.

The Kirwin Institute suggests the following recommendations:

• Rebuild affordable housing on the island that was destroyed by Ike: Cost-burdened households were increasing throughout the county before Ike. The largest rates of cost burdened households are found on the island.

• Rebuild in places in or near high-opportunity areas: As the opportunity maps show, many of Galveston Island’s neighborhoods are higher opportunity areas, which could be considered for additional public housing and affordable housing development.

• Target additional public housing units near institutions like hospitals and universities: These institutions are sources of valuable services and jobs that form the basis of opportunity.

• Ensure affordable housing is rebuilt near accessible public transportation.

• Engage and involve public housing residents in redevelopment decisions: Restoration and improvement of housing will only be effective when informed by the desires and needs of the residents themselves.

The housing authority and the city should engage in “groundtruthing,” whereby the aspirations of residents can be clearly understood in the context of the opportunity landscape. Affordable, sustainable and supportive housing is an important component of a healthy and economically vibrant Gulf Coast community for all residents.

The Kirwan Institute

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.