The University of Arizona

Who defines 'whole': an urban political ecology of flood control and community relocation in Houston, Texas

Kevin A. Lynn


Abstract Even if public agencies sponsoring projects like flood alleviation have the best of intentions for relocated households, there may still be residents who do not agree with being forced to move. Federal relocation policy in the US has been, and continues to be, concerned primarily with housing economics and financial compensation. And yet, residents subject to relocation continue to express other concerns. The public agency responsible for relocation from flood-prone Kashmere Gardens in Houston, TX has promised to make households 'whole' in terms of finding new housing that is no more expensive (in terms of rent, mortgage payments, and equity) than vacated homes. While these considerations are important, this article illustrates how public agencies need to expand how they define 'whole.' Interviews with 53 households affected directly or indirectly by relocation show that the following factors need consideration when subjecting households to involuntary relocation: (1) suitability of new housing, (2) perceived competence of relocation specialists, (3) the relocation planning process, and (4) potential health issues for relocated households. Key Words: Kashmere Gardens, Houston, Uniform Relocation Act (URA), flood control infrastructure, urban political ecology

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