More than two in five Americans worry about their community in a natural disaster
Today’s 25th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake reminds us that the inevitable next “Big One” can happen at any time. Couple this with the barrage of extreme weather in 2018, recent climate change reports, and rising homelessness numbers, it’s no surprise that many citizens are worried that their communities don’t have what it takes to be resilient.
More than two in five (46%) Americans don’t believe their community is structurally or financially prepared to handle a natural disaster and it’s therefore unable to keep communities together or keep people in their homes. It’s not just speculation – nearly three in five (58%) Californians whose town or county was impacted by a natural disaster report that homeowners/renters in their community have been displaced after the disaster and subsequently left the area to reside elsewhere.
One of the biggest casualties of a natural disaster is housing. This is a key finding of The Resilience Report: Disaster Displacement, released today from Jumpstart, an innovative type of natural disaster insurance in California (initially for earthquakes). The report was commissioned by third party research firm YouGov, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults and an additional 1,000+ adults in California. The full report is available here.
Poor Natural Disaster Could Worsen Homelessness
According to the report, the public keenly understands that natural disasters can cause homelessness and is concerned about how that displacement would be addressed. More than one in three (38%) say there’s already a significant homelessness issue in their area and a natural disaster would make the problem worse. More than one in three (37%) agree that although homeless may not be a huge problem in their area currently, a natural disaster would cause the issue to emerge. There’s also overall distrust on how the government would handle the situation: more than two in five (46%) disagree that the government would address the issue appropriately.
“A natural-disaster can create several ripple effects, including a housing crisis,” said Kate Stillwell, founder and CEO of Jumpstart. “Nearly half of Americans (48%) believe one of the most significant issues caused by a natural disaster is potential displacement. With nowhere to go, both homeowners and renters will leave to go live somewhere else, but this undermines community resilience. The goal should be for as many people as possible to stay in their homes, and a key piece of the solution is a financial cushion.”
Personal Finance Also Impacts Community Resilience
The report sheds light on how personal finances affect disaster recovery. The data shows an acute need for education on how to financially plan effectively – more than half (57%) of Americans believe we need this in schools, while more than two in five (44%) think we need to simplify the process for engaging with personal finance services (e.g., less jargon). Nearly two in five (38%) say we need to “unbundle” personal finance by offering more flexible/customizable options rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Even more troubling is the lack of personal finances available for natural disaster recovery. More than two in five (42%) people have $1,000 or less available in savings that could be put to use after a natural disaster, and of this, nearly one in five (18%) report they have no disaster funds at all. Unsurprisingly, nearly one in three (30%) of those who make less than $40K/year have $0 set aside. This represents a major public policy challenge, since natural disasters disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations.
Let’s Reprioritise “Know thy Neighbour,” Especially for the Younger Generation
Community resilience – when people work together to rebuild after a natural disaster – is paramount to recovery. Those in younger generations could be more likely to depart after a natural disaster, which is problematic because they’re the lifeblood of the economy: just over one in four (28%) of 18-34 year olds believe that staying in your home is valuable for the rebuild process versus almost half (49%) of age 55+.
Stillwell continues, “When individuals and families can stay in their community, and neighbours can help neighbours to rebuild and plow back, it leads to an upward spiral of recovery.”
Californians Especially Feel the Threat of a Post-Disaster Housing Crisis
In a state already suffering from homelessness, nearly one in three Californians (30%) report their town or county has been impacted by a post-natural disaster housing crisis. Likewise, almost one in three (30%) of Californians who have been affected by a post-natural disaster housing crisis say a natural disaster has added to the existing homeless population. Housing is an enormous worry: three-fifths (60%) reported that one of their top three financial concerns when recovering from a natural disaster was having enough money to cover a temporary residence (e.g. staying in a hotel while their house is being fixed).
We are delighted that one of our portfolio companies is leading the charge in alleviating this big problem.
Jumpstart is the first to provide parametric earthquake insurance for renters and homeowners in the U.S, getting money to more people when they need it most.
The full report is available on blog.jumpstartrecovery.com.