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March 15th, 2019
New City of Houston and Civis Analytics Report Details Methodology for Smarter, More Accurate Disaster Recovery

HOUSTON and CHICAGO – The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department, along with data science firm Civis Analytics, today released a report detailing the Harvey Data Project, a new, data-based approach for a smarter, more accurate and equitable disaster recovery.

After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the City of Houston recognized that Houston needed a more precise understanding of how the storm impacted residents that went beyond FEMA data. In response, the City launched the Harvey Data Project, a new way to look at the impact and cost of Harvey. The project partners included a team of data scientists from Civis Analytics, flood engineers from Dewberry, and community and geospatial expertise from Knudson. Together, they built a new model for more accurately calculating storm damage.

“While a disaster like Harvey may be ‘equal opportunity’ in terms of where the rain fell, it actually deepens inequalities that existed before the storm,” said Tom McCasland, Director of the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department. “The Federal government is supposed to assist those who have the least ability to recover on their own, but Federal disaster programs rely on data that often misses low-income people and people of color. The Harvey Data Project is a way for us to correct the record and make sure Houstonians get what they need to bounce forward from Hurricane Harvey.”

Coordinating closely among several levels of government, the project collected multiple kinds of data related to flooding, real estate, and social vulnerability to build the new model. The next step is to use data generated in the project to inform program design in Houston. Houston is also pushing Congress and Federal agencies to consider new approaches to calculating disaster damage.

“Cities have extremely powerful data at their fingertips, but gathering and analyzing it in an actionable way is hard to do without the right tools or technical expertise,” said Chris Dick, Harvey Data Project lead for Civis Analytics. “With the existing framework of the Harvey Data Project in place, cities across America can more easily, accurately, and fairly recover from future disasters.”

The full report is available here. To read more about the City of Houston’s Harvey relief efforts, visit www.recovery.houstontx.gov. To learn more about Civis’s work with the public sector, visit www.civisanalytics.com/industries/public-sector/.

About the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department
The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department’s mission is to create a city where everyone has an affordable home, in a neighborhood where they can thrive. In addition to supporting development of housing for all Houstonians, the Department is responsible for administering long-term disaster recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

About Civis Analytics
Civis Analytics helps leading public and private sector organizations use data to gain a competitive advantage in how they identify, attract, and engage people. With a blend of proprietary data, technology and advisory services, and an interdisciplinary team of data scientists, developers, and survey science experts, Civis helps organizations stop guessing and start using statistical proof to guide decisions. Learn more about Civis at www.civisanalytics.com.