A more resilient Houston starts in neighborhoods, Kinder Institute report says

Building a better and more resilient Houston must start at the neighborhood level, and that can be accomplished by providing communities with leadership training, better information and financial support, according to a new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston. Photo credit: Brandon Martin/Rice University

“Community Resilience Initiatives: Building Stronger Neighborhoods in Houston” examines work taking place in neighborhoods that are part of the city’s Complete Communities program and how it connects to the newly released Resilient Houston plan. The report offers best practices for how communities can deal with challenges they face and connect them to broader city efforts.

Kinder Institute researchers Chris Servidio, Kyle Shelton and Dian Nostikasari conducted dozens of interviews and group discussions with Complete Community neighborhood stakeholders. They also analyzed the program’s action plans, which outline problems ranging from a lack of professional job training to availability of fresh and healthy food.

“The efforts taking place at the community level in Houston are essential building blocks to building stronger neighborhoods,” said Shelton, deputy director of the Kinder Institute. “When community efforts are tied into larger city programs, the lessons learned can be shared across the city and help neighborhoods throughout Houston. The efforts highlighted are helping residents address everyday issues such as housing, food access and health, and are also better preparing communities to deal with future shocks and disasters by reducing vulnerabilities.”

After conducting their interviews, the researchers concluded communities should be provided with resources to train future leaders as well as the technical information residents need to make decisions. They also emphasized encouraging organizations that can act as “community quarterbacks” to coordinate efforts, convene stakeholders and organize resources.

“When residents are involved in efforts that give them the information and expertise they need to participate in technical decisions about their community they are able to bring their real-world experiences in line with official decisions,” Shelton said. “This merging often means better outcomes for communities and more effective use of public efforts.”

Interviewees expressed the importance of providing financial support to community organizations with effective ideas.

“These group are struggling to expand without monetary resources,” the authors wrote.

Finally, the report stressed the need for community plans and public engagement as a way to acknowledge and incorporate past efforts while responding to different situations and implementing necessary actions to achieve goals.

Ultimately, the researchers believe these resilience-building efforts will improve the quality of life for all residents.

The report was funded by Chevron.

“Our Complete Communities have a legacy of perseverance and resilience that have made them cultural assets to our city despite not having comparable investments as other neighborhoods,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Our efforts are laser-focused on reversing that disparity and creating more equity in under-resourced neighborhoods. These community resilience initiatives are good examples for why growing resilience-building efforts at the neighborhood scale, as called for in Resilient Houston, is so important. We appreciate the Kinder Institute and Chevron for doing the kind of deep research that shows how the community engagement and planning approaches we are using can improve quality of life and resilience in our neighborhoods.”

“As a native Texan, I know how important resilience and vitality are to our region,” said Steve Green, president of Chevron North American Exploration and Production and Kinder Institute advisory board member. “We’re proud to support and learn from the data and guidance provide by the Kinder Institute, which continues to inform our understanding of the biggest challenges and opportunities impacting our community.”

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.