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AARP Disaster Recovery Tool Kit: Part 2

How to rebuild a town, city or neighborhood to be a livable community for people of all ages

Land-Use, Housing and Transportation Principles

Before Photo Of Street, Cars, Disaster Recovery Toolkit, Renovation, Livable Communities

Image courtesy of WALC Institute (

BEFORE "REVISIONING": An intersection in Kennesaw, Georgia.

When making rebuilding decisions after a natural disaster or other tragedy, communities should consider the connections between land-use, housing and alternative transportation options.

Coordinating decisions in these areas enhance the community's usefulness and appearance, as well as the ability of residents to stay active, independent and engaged.

The result is a community that enjoys a strong sense of place and benefits from having greater sustainability and a more effective allocation of resources.

After Photo, Rendered Drawing, Proposal, Disaster Recovery Toolkit, Livable Communities

Courtesy of the WALC Institute (

AFTER: A photovision of what the same intersection could look like.

The Physical Elements of a Livable Community

  • Mixed-use development and housing located within easy walking distance of shopping, recreation, public transportation and needed services
  • Development strategies that provide and intersperse a variety of housing types and sizes throughout the community in order to accommodate the needs of people of all ages, family sizes and incomes
  • Technology infrastructure that can support information dissemination, service delivery, remote monitoring and other methods that promote community-based independent living (e.g., the delivery of affordable broadband technologies)
  • Safe and accessible public facilities (including parks, libraries and public restrooms) interspersed throughout the community and usable by people of all abilities
  • Roads and intersections that are safe and accessible for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit riders, in addition to automobile and other motor vehicle drivers
  • Educational facilities, including those that allow lifelong-learning opportunities in institutions of higher education and the intergenerational use of public schools and community facilities
  • Innovative zoning (such as form-based code), effectively enforced design and construction standards and building codes that improve access and maintain community livability

Before Photo Of Street And Intersection, Traffic Lights, Renovation, Disaster Recovery Toolkit, Livable Communities


BEFORE "REVISIONING": A location in Kingsport, Tennessee

Livable Land-Use Principles 

Proper land-use planning and design are critical to developing livable communities. The following principles are detailed further in Chapter 9 of the AARP Policy Book.

1. Create a strong sense of place: The built environment should be in character with the natural environment and respect community values.

2. Prioritize investment in sustainability: Increase energy efficiency, reduce infrastructure costs, foster long-term affordability, enhance transit availability and reduce the community’s carbon footprint and the negative health effects of climate changes.

3. Promote mixed-use development: Pursue land-use planning that connects residents to jobs, services, retail, recreation and entertainment through an interconnected network of “Complete Streets” that increase transportation options and social interactions.

4. Foster lifelong-learning opportunities: Encouraging the intergenerational use of public facilities provides residents with learning opportunities that contribute to personal growth and economic productivity.

After Photo, Proposal, Renovation, Rendered Drawing, Livable Communities, Disaster Recovery Toolkit


AFTER: A photovision of what the same location could look like.

Livable Housing Principles

A livable community has affordable, appropriate and diverse housing options. The following principles and others are detailed further in Chapter 9 of the AARP Policy Book.

1. Improve home design: Provide safe, decent and accessible housing that promotes independence and aging in place through home modifications and repairs and the use of innovative home products and appropriate design features, such as those promoted by universal design, inclusive home design and energy efficiency efforts.

2. Promote affordable housing options: Ensure that land-use and other policies enable the private and public sectors to provide a variety of housing sizes and types. Promote policies and programs that support the creation and maintenance of an adequate supply of affordable rental housing and home ownership options to meet the needs of people of all ages, family compositions and income levels.

3. Support residents in all types of households: Ensure that older adults have a choice in the type of housing arrangement that best fits their needs.

Livable Transportation and Mobility Principles 

A livable community has affordable, appropriate and diverse transportation options. The following principles and others are detailed further in Chapter 9 of the AARP Policy Book.

1. Create transportation options: Community residents should have a range of safe, accessible, dependable and affordable transportation options, including alternatives to driving, that enhance mobility, promote independence, facilitate employment opportunities, assure non-emergency transportation to medical services and foster social engagement. 

2. Ensure that the transportation system is accessible: Provide travel infrastructure and facilities that accommodate the needs of pedestrians as well as older drivers and enhance safety for all users across all modes of travel. The equipment, physical environment and service standards for both public transit providers and private carriers should maximize mobility choice and access for consumers of all ability levels and across the income spectrum.

3. Promote healthy communities through sustainable transportation infrastructure: Coordinating transportation and land-use decisions enhance public health by creating communities where it is safe and convenient to replace trips in private vehicles with walking, bicycling and public transportation.

AARP Disaster Recovery Tool Kit Contents

This tool kit is a collaboration of the Federal Emergency Management Administration and AARP Livable Communities, represented by senior program advisor Jeanne Anthony. The tool kit was published in January 2015 with portions updated in September 2017.

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