jump to navigation

The Housing Sector

Housing makes up the greatest portion, often 60-70 percent, of the built environment in any community (Comerio, 1998). The dynamics of the housing stock in any town or city has a direct relationship of community vulnerability and resilience.

“The likelihood that an apartment owner will rebuild a damaged building depends primarily on his or her ability to raise capital (rents) without losing tenants. The ability to finance the investment in rebuilding and repairs has little to do with the social need for rental housing after a disaster and more to do with the business decisions of the landlord” (Comerio, 1998, page). The situation becomes ever more complex for condominiums and loft apartment buildings. Individual owners of mutually shared buildings have a hard time making personal decisions about repairing or rebuilding their homes when many other individuals could be making the decision to abandon the building and move somewhere else, especially when taking into consideration differing the financial circumstances of each occupant (Comerio, 1998).

Slab Concrete Foundation Home ravaged by Flood Waters

Slab Concrete Foundation Home ravaged by Flood Waters

New Orleans Housing Architectural Styles

Traditional (Vernacular) houses evolve over time, adapted by their users as functional environments to the needs of their inhabitants (Oliver-Smith, 1999). This fact is never more evident then in comparing traditional architecture of residential homes built before 1950 as compared to the mass production of homes post 1950. The latter being an integral part of the suburbanization of New Orleans surrounding swamps and marshland.

Vernacular Camelback Shotgun House

Vernacular Camelback Shotgun House with 18" Flood Mitigation

The most abundant, affordable housing type in New Orleans is known as a “shotgun,” containing “a string of rooms lined up one behind the other, usually without benefit of a hallway. The gable of the house runs perpendicular to the street, and this housing type is rarely more than a story and a half high. In its most elementary form, the shotgun could be very crude, serving as what was euphemistically called “rental housing” – more plainly, the cheapest house on the market” (Lewis, 2003, p.64-65).

California Bungalow

California Bungalow - Lewis (2003)

More common than the shotgun is the “bungalow,” or “double tenement,” which “resulted from putting two houses under one roof – each long and low like a shotgun, but with a common inner wall and central gable. To avoid possible danger from a flood, many of them were elevated on pilings five to ten feet high (these understories were often scooped out, walled in and turned into a informal ground floor, which Orleanians called “basements”). The result was a very substantial, two story double house, with the first main floor well above ground level. Even a simple shotgun could be raised in the same way; such a house is called a “raised bungalow,” with a higher roofline than an ordinary shotgun, and with a much higher social status” (Lewis, 2003, p.64-65).

Camelback House

Camelback House - Lewis (2003)

Around World War I, New Orleans’s builders gradually began adopting other architectural fads, but by then square miles of the city were covered with shotguns, bungalows, and an astonishing variant known as the “camelback,” which begins as a one or two family bungalow in front, but rises to two stories in the rear (Lewis, 2003, p.65).

Next (The Role of Building Codes) >>>

<<< Back to Literature Review

%d bloggers like this: