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Alternatives to Emergency Housing Show Promise


  • Determine the quality of life for alternatives to trailers for emergency housing
  • Abt evaluated pre-post outcomes for unit recipients and processed case studies of implementation.
  • Housing units were preferred, there’s no single solution to emergency housing.
The Challenge

The Alternative Housing Pilot Program, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program, provided $400 million to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to develop and test new forms of emergency shelter as alternatives to FEMA trailers. Hundreds of people displaced by the hurricanes in 2005 lived in these shelters, some of which have become permanent housing that is still occupied. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) commissioned Abt Associates to undertake a rigorous evaluation of the quality-of-life outcomes for program recipients.

The Approach

The Quality of Life study had two overall goals:

  1. To understand how the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) affected the quality of life for people who received an AHPP unit, and
  2. To understand how the program was implemented across sites and shed light on how implementation affected households and program success.

Abt conducted a pre-post outcome evaluation for the former, and process case studies for the latter.

The Results

The study found that:  

  • Survivor households preferred the alternative emergency housing provided by AHPP to the traditional temporary housing alternatives – including FEMA trailers – and said AHPP housing was of significantly higher quality. 
  • Each grantee established different timelines and objectives for the AHPP housing units and the occupant survivor households. This variation enabled many lessons to be learned for future post-disaster housing programs.
  • Across grantees, the AHPP units blurred the lines between emergency, temporary and permanent housing for communities affected by emergencies.  AHPP demonstrated that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to providing temporary emergency housing that can be seamlessly transitioned to permanent housing.