In 2008, Hurricane Ike brought disaster to Galveston, Texas, destroying over 500 public housing units and displacing residents, many of whom already faced a disproportionate burden of poor health determinants and outcomes such as lack of access to medical care and exercise opportunities, and higher rates of asthma, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Local legislators and housing authority members disagreed over whether—and where—to rebuild the units that had previously been viewed as perpetuating poverty for residents. In this context, researchers from the Georgia Health Policy Center, in collaboration with the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities at the University of Texas Medical Branch, conducted an HIA to investigate how a proposed “scattered-site” public housing approach, which would distribute individual units through Galveston, could affect the community.. The HIA brought community stakeholders together and grew support for what had previously been a contentious issue; decision-makers ultimately modified selection, inspection, and evaluation processes based on the HIA recommendations. For Galveston’s public housing residents, the new scattered-site construction and mixed-income developments should provide a chance to return home and rebuild the lives and families displaced by the storm.
The HIA report was adopted by the Texas General Land Office as a reference document for developers.