Joplin, Missouri and Housing

Provided by NAHB economist Elliot Eisenberg

Recently I was to give a talk about the economic impact of home building in Joplin, MO.  However, a few hours before I landed, a devastating tornado destroyed 2,000 buildings and heavily damaged one-third of the city, including the hospital, high school and many neighborhoods. In all, over 120 persons were killed. 

The most poignant part of natural disasters is hearing survivors talk about rebuilding their destroyed homes and neighborhoods. Few cry over other destroyed property; such items are more easily replaced. Yet, people grieve when surveying a destroyed home.   This is because homes are repositories of memory and because homes speak to the importance of place. Thus, the profound desire to rebuild persists even though moving away may be easier.

Joplin has suffered immense physical and psychological damage. And home builders will take their part in helping to make these communities whole. In my speeches as an economist I regularly report the number of jobs created and the amount of tax revenue generated by home building. But those details miss the larger point. What rebuilding homes in Joplin and New Orleans and Memphis does is offer people and communities hope about the future and comfort that they are part of it.



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