Vulnerability to flood in the lower Onion Creek Neighborhood
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Impacts of climate change in urban areas have risen both household and neighborhood levels and appear unevenly by region. To mitigate adverse effects of climate change, the government has implemented local policies on land use planning, integrating hazard mitigation, and climate change adaptation for the short and long term. However, governmental programs that disperse community of residents may weaken the long-term resilience. The purpose of this research is to identify how vulnerability to flood has changed a neighborhood and how those changes have influenced the built environment of the neighborhood and its community. The voluntary buyout program as a hazard mitigation strategy has been implemented in the Onion Creek Neighborhood in Austin, Texas. Diving into this specific case site, the research examines the relationship between flood designation, homeowners' housing interventions, and governmental buyout programs during the last decade. The Onion Creek Neighborhood, located in South Austin, was developed in 1973 and created as a residential community. When the neighborhood was built in the 1970s, most of the area was not considered to be in the floodplain. However, there were severe flood events in 1998, 2001, and 2013, which changed floodplains and increased the potential threats on large numbers of single-family housing in the Onion Creek Neighborhood. As a result, from 1999 to the present, the Watershed Protection department of the City of Austin has cooperated with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to buy around 500 properties located in the floodplain as a long term policy for climate change adaptation in the Onion Creek area, offering the current fair market value for the property to residents as well as relocation and moving costs. Some residents, who have not sold their property to the municipality following previous floods, have individually repaired or remodeled their homes. Now properties in the neighborhood have been bought out and demolished. These changes not only affected the built environment, it also shifted the area from a residential community. The question remains: why did residents continue to invest in their properties after their experienced flood? What options did they have? In this research, municipal building permit data from 1998 to 2013 will be used to analyze changes in individual buildings, such as demolition and remodeling on the household level. Using the ArcGIS program, this research maps out building permit changes. In addition, through the TCAD data and the City of Austin’s Crime data, this research investigates where the residents move forward after selling out their properties, and how the residents who left in the neighborhood are exposed to the safety issues during the transition period. The study suggests community relocation as an alternative way of long term resilience, especially in a way that relocates community collectively, and ideally preserving both communities and physical structures. The research expects to help practitioners examine hazard mitigation programs over a long-term period that includes the impact on residents’ quality of life, and also the long-term resilience of communities.