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Planning Provisional Accommodation for Uprooted Communities. The Twilight Zone: Provisional Housing after Earthquakes

Researchers: Eran Feitelson, Amotz Agnon, Eran Lederman, Mike Turner, Tomer Shemi, Einav Levy, Moshe Weinstein


This report explores five central issues on the topic of provisional housing after an earthquake. In the first section, the authors present a tool for assessing whether aftershocks have subsided. This is important, as temporary housing solutions become relevant after aftershocks have subsided. The second section describes how to identify appropriate sites for the placement of provisional housing. Because it is impossible to predict the exact nature of an earthquake in advance, in this chapter, an algorithm (based on GIS systems) is created for the use of decision makers in real-time, in order to identify appropriate sites given the specific nature of the event.

The third section discusses important factors in choosing the type of housing units, in order to meet the needs of the affected population. Several types of existing temporary housing units throughout the world are described and assessed for their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, in this chapter, there are several recommendations for designing the layout of sites. The fourth section addresses the issue of connecting sites to infrastructure. The use of autonomous housing units is suggested in order to circumvent uncertainty of the condition of critical infrastructure after an earthquake. In the fifth section, social and mental aspects of planning temporary housing are discussed. Guidelines are presented in order to minimize the damage that temporary housing solutions may have on the social lives and mental health of displaced persons.

Policy Recommendations

Each chapter details several relevant policy recommendations. Some of these include:

  • Priorities for selecting sites for temporary housing should be:
    • 1. Ensure that land that is stable, secure, and fitting for settlement.
    • 2. Select sites with minimal disruption to the lives of displaced persons. Sites should be in close proximity to permanent housing and sources of income.
    • 3. Priority should be given to selecting sites in which building plans already exist and that have options to connect to existing infrastructure.
    • 4. Avoid nature reserves, forests, and other open areas in which the settlement of human beings is likely to significantly stress the natural ecosystem.
  • A database of available land should be created. This will require inter-agency cooperation.
  • The guidelines for provisional housing for disaster victims published by the Ministry of Construction and Housing should be updated in accordance with the findings of this study.
  • With the cooperation of the UNDRR, a platform should be created for the development and assessment of temporary housing solutions, based on the “Ten Essentials for Making Cities.”
  • Using autonomous housing units is recommended as an effective way of relieving the effects of a disaster, especially during the first year after the disaster.
  • Plans for temporary housing sites should aim to preserve the nature of the community and social structure that existed pre-disaster.
  • Sites should be planned in close proximity to employment, leisure, and basic services, such as sanitation, healthcare, points designated for food preparation, and distribution points for food and supplies. The planning of temporary housing camps needs to take into account lighting, accessibility, and means for food preparations that need the needs of the affected populous. A return to normal functioning and planned activities can help minimize hardship and distress, while helping meet needs that arose as a result of the disaster.
  • Placement of public institutions (such as schools, religious institutions, and community centers) should be planned strategically according to the nature of the displaced population and the strength of community bonds within that population.
  • Displaced persons should be presented with choices. Many disaster victims may choose not to live in temporary camps, but may turn to other support systems, such as family and community.
  • Housing units should be built with careful consideration of the needs of the displaced population, including family size and accessibility to personal services.
  • Surveillance and monitoring of outside organizations that enter the camp is critical in order to protect the displaced population from exploitation and further damage.

Final report (Hebrew)