Resilience: What Is It? What’s It Got To Do With Affordable Housing?

A stunted pine tree bent by the wind
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Resilience: The capacity to bend, not break, under stress.

Resilience is a measure of how well a crisis, calamity, or catastrophe can be withstood. As the term is used in this blog, it comes in two flavours.

Community resilience is a measure of how well a nation, region, or community can withstand something like an earthquake or a hurricane. Community resilience is the realm of emergency management agencies. At affordablehousingaction.org we have gone so far as to ask whether the affordable crisis is also an emergency: Can An Affordable Housing Crisis Be Viewed As A Slow-Rolling Disaster?

Individual resilience is a measure of how individuals and families handle crises. At this level, seemingly small events, including ones that might not be thought of as a crisis, seriously threaten the resilience of a family. Examples? The burnt out clutch of an aging family car. A tax rebate lost in the mail. A winter coat ripped beyond repair in a fall. A cast needed for a wrist injured in the same fall.

What has resilience got to do with affordable housing?

As housing increases in cost, an individual or family has less money to set aside for calamities, even small day to day ones. This is particularly true for people with a disability, who often manage with very low incomes.

Without the money to make housing accessible, finding existing housing that is both accessible and affordable can be virtually impossible.

People can also become less resilient as they age. Seniors are more likely to acquire physical disabilities, while lacking the income to make their housing accessible. This shifts them towards poverty even when they own their housing.

People with disabilities are doubly vulnerable in regional crises that challenge entire communities. Such events can trigger individual housing disasters for anyone with limited or no resilience.

Read about a recent large-scale calamity and how it affects individual resilience in the Bellevue Leader: Affordable housing out of reach for many displaced by flood