The 483 census tracts recently designated as community disaster resilience zones (CDRZs) will be eligible for enhanced hazard mitigation benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for at least five years. But the long-term, full vision for these zones is more expansive, with proponents imagining that the CDRZ designation will lead to substantial whole-of-government investments (like the recently announced Climate Smart Communities Initiative, which will prioritize CDRZs) and significant opportunities for private-sector and philanthropic investment.

Our preliminary analysis of the zones found that the communities in CDRZs have consistently higher levels of social and economic vulnerability and are far more likely to be located in rural places. If successful CDRZ implementation depends on place-based investments in these communities, then the governance and local governments’ capacities will be critically important. Understanding who governs the places with CDRZs, and what their capacities are, is a first step toward providing tailored resources to communities.

Who governs the CDRZs?
The Community Disaster Resilience Zone Act requires that FEMA designate census tracts where hazard and climate risk is highest. But census tracts—which can be as physically large as an entire county or as small as an urban neighborhood—do not align neatly with jurisdictional boundaries or units of government. Some CDRZs may be entirely within a single city, while others might include portions of multiple cities, towns, and rural areas. And yet, these jurisdictions are tasked with identifying potential projects, creating the necessary legal and regulatory environment, pursuing federal funding, facilitating project design and implementation, and managing public resources.

To identify the local governments with a CDRZ designation, we used data from the 2022 Census of Governments, which records all county, municipal, and township governments in each state. Municipalities are generally associated with incorporated places, while townships are associated with minor civil divisions. To connect each CDRZ tract to the relevant government, we used a place-to-tract and county subdivision-to-tract geographic crosswalk. We also linked county governments for the county a CDRZ tract is within when available.

Our analysis finds that 208 county governments, 475 municipal governments, and 205 township governments (along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia) are affiliated with a newly identified CDRZ. In most instances, a CDRZ falls into the geographical boundaries of multiple local governments (county governments, municipal governments, and/or township governments).

Read the full article about disaster resilience zones by Andrew Rumbach, Sara McTarnaghan and Amy Rogin at Urban Institute.