Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Equitable Recovery Tools

Equitable disaster recovery tools are legal and policy mechanisms that aid in creating strategies that incorporate equity in both short- and long-term recovery from a disaster for frontline communities. Equitable recovery consists of implementing laws and policies that help to remove existing barriers to recovery solutions for frontline communities and others, addressing affected communities’ needs, and collaborating with communities to get the desired solutions. It is important that need- and impacts-assessments are conducted along with community convenings, which will engage the community in a visioning process and address the recovery efforts of those directly affected. Recovery is a broad cross-sectional concept that incorporates housing, infrastructure, small businesses, individual assistance access, land use and redevelopment, and health concerns across affected communities. Equitable recovery is most likely to be achieved when its design is informed by those directly affected and aids those same people in achieving safety and normalcy after a disaster. Equitable recovery should strive to — at the very least — make a frontline community whole while simultaneously making it more resilient in the face of disasters to come.

A key feature of equitable recovery tools and policies is the creation of a participatory model for community members to contribute to their own recovery. These tools also intersect with many sectors of the economy including energy democracy, public health, infrastructure, and housing; help reduce involuntary displacement of people in the days, months, and years following the disaster; seek to balance the preservation of the original community and culture with the increased resiliency of core community assets; and remove barriers for low-income homeowners to get federal and state assistance available to adequately recover.

Considerations of Equitable Recovery Tools


  • Who pays for restoration and redevelopment after a disaster is always a major issue. Options include the federal, state, or local governments, nonprofits, or individuals and businesses.
  • Increased prices for essential items during a time of recovery make necessities inaccessible for many frontline communities who are most in need.


  • These types of tools deal with recovering from a specific climate disaster and its consequences, while (usually) attempting to implement policy or legal changes so that the catastrophic consequences will not be repeated.
  • Recovery tools often include incorporating more resilient, energy-efficient technologies and retrofits into redevelopment to mitigate future disaster impacts.


  • After climate disasters, there are often displacement issues most heavily among frontline communities. 
  • Low-income households are often financially unprepared for a disaster event, and thus do not have the resources saved that are necessary to recover from an event. 
  • Before implementing relocation tools, it is important to determine if/how disadvantaged communities will be affected by these types of laws and regulations. 
  • Successful recovery plans that are released and implemented directly after a disaster should incorporate community engagement. Post-disaster redevelopment plans should focus on a just recovery in the most adversely affected communities first.


  • Building communities back after a natural disaster involves coordinating a lot of moving pieces including short- and long term policies and projects among a number of partners and stakeholders including federal and local governments, businesses, community-based organizations, non-profits, and NGOs among others. 
  • Recovery in many communities depends, at least in part, on local businesses reopening. Local business owners should be heavily involved in the development of any just recovery plan or strategy.


  • Legal questions may arise regarding ways to qualify for and spend federal money, and whether changes from previous construction are allowed as part of a new project. For example, can redevelopment occur in less vulnerable areas; etc. 
  • The successful design of redevelopment in a legally enforceable way must require consideration of climate disasters into the future.
  • Depending on the tool used, different agencies, legislators, etc. have the power to implement these rules and there are also questions of who has related enforcement powers. 

Lessons Learned

  • Climate displacement is a huge issue for frontline communities. In instances where a neighborhood can be safely redeveloped and does not require that residents consider a buyout or otherwise relocate, strategies that emphasize keeping people in their homes to prevent climate displacement should be prioritized. However, where movement to a safer location is necessary, community engagement and support are essential.
  • If policymakers implement regulations — such as zoning laws or expedited permitting — that prohibit rebuilding or redevelopment in environmentally vulnerable areas, they need to ensure that specific, disadvantaged communities are fully taken into consideration and protected.
  • The best recovery plans are those that not only ensure that a community rebounds from a disaster event, but also that the community is prepared for future, similar climate events. Thus, recovery strategies should include policy and resources that facilitate future mitigation, prevention, and preparedness for these communities.
  • Local governments should actively work to support and engage in integrated planning with community organizations that can assist communities before and after an extreme weather event. This can help ensure transparency, and build a sense of trust between the local government and the community it is assisting.


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