In the event of a catastrophic emergency which displaces hundreds or thousands of residents from their homes, it will likely become necessary to construct temporary emergency shelters and emergency lodging. Cots, blankets and group lodging are only a short-term solution.
As an affected area moves from emergency response to recovery, provisions for longer-term housing options will need to be considered. This housing may be occupied for a period of a few weeks or months or depending on the severity of the emergency, up to five years and possibly longer.
Working with modular and manufactured housing designers, BC Housing has developed a tool kit to support communities province-wide in planning their response to a catastrophic emergency. The Tool Kit to Plan and Develop Emergency Lodging is designed to act as a baseline reference of minimum requirements for use by cities, municipalities, towns and villages in British Columbia, designers and modular home builders. The toolkit provides project specific designs which can be easily compiled in response to the need for post-disaster accommodation.
The decision to deploy these kinds of facilities would be in consultation with the affected local community to determine what form the new community will take. There will be a certain amount of site preparation that would need to take place, but in most cases, companies can start producing modular structures within a few weeks.
Communities are encouraged to utilize the Site Selection recommendations in the Tool Kit to undertake some preliminary investigations and earmark potential sites for emergency lodging use prior to being required.
Emergency Lodging Property Management Companies
As a result of a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, major flood or wildfire whereby large numbers of citizens are left without housing, emergency lodging facilities may be built by BC Housing or other agencies and organizations.
With the construction and delivery of emergency lodging to a community as part of their recovery plan, there would be a need for coordination and management. These buildings could be treated as rental accommodation for the community members as they establish their new normal. To that end, there would also be a need for help to manage potentially thousands or tens of thousands of rental units.
In 2016, BC Housing distributed a request for interest to organizations to see who might be in a position to assist with the property management functions at emergency lodging facilities if they became required. These organizations would take on paid positions as property managers and site staff, to assist in screening and placing tenants, signing tenancy agreements, rent collections and maintenance/response, much like a conventional building manager. Some of the responsibilities could include:
- Short-notice provision of property management and site staff
- Selection, screening and placement of tenants
- Complete and maintain Residential Tenancy Agreements
- Collect rental payments
- Maintain sites and health and safety standards
- 24/7 site management response
Several organizations responded, and have been included in a list identifying potential assistance for catastrophic emergency lodging planning.
Recovery: Long-term housing
BC Housing administers a centralized database of applicants in search of affordable housing called The Housing Registry. Applications are generally processed in chronological order. However, when a disaster (for example, fire, flood, etc.) occurs, evacuee applications are prioritized. Eligible evacuees are added to the database and considered for vacancies along with all other applicants. However, as the demand for housing exceeds the supply, there is no guarantee that a household will receive housing immediately, and evacuees are encouraged to continue to pursue their own housing options.
Want more information on housing options during an emergency? Consult the Emergency Shelter Program - Framework, or talk to someone at The Housing Registry. Call 604-433-2218 or 1-800-257-7756.