Introduction: Household flooding has wide ranging social, economic and public health impacts particularly for people in resource poor communities. The determinants and outcomes of recurrent home flooding in urban contexts, however, are not well understood. A household survey was used to assess neighborhood and household level determinants of recurrent home flooding in Detroit, MI.
Methods: Survey activities covered the years of 2012 and 2020. Researchers collected information on past flooding, housing conditions, flooding outcomes and public health outcomes. Using the locations of homes and flooding occurrences, a “hot spot” analysis was performed to find areas of extreme risk within the City of Detroit. Survey data were linked to environment and neighborhood data and associations were tested using regression methods.
Results: 5,956 households participated in the survey and flooding information was available for 4,677 of them. Among these, 2,546 (42.75%) reported having experienced home flooding as a result of rainfall. Rental occupied units were more likely to report flooding than owner occupied homes (OR 1.71 [95% CI 1.5, 1.94]). Housing conditions such as poor roof quality and cracks in basement walls influenced home flooding risk. Increased percentage of rental units in the vicinity of the home increased flooding risk. When controlling for household and neighborhood factors, primarily African American communities were found to be at high risk for home flooding. Flooding and conditions associated with home flooding were associated with adult and child asthma.
Conclusions: Recurrent home flooding is far more prevalent than previously thought and associated with neighborhood and household factors, in addition to disproportionately impacting African American residents. Programs that support recovery and which focus on home improvement to prevent flooding, particularly by landlords, might benefit the public health. These results draw awareness and urgency to problems of urban flooding and public health in other areas of the country confronting the compounding challenges of aging infrastructure, disinvestment and climate change.