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Administration Announces Plan to Help Hurricane Katrina and Rita Victims Living in FEMA Trailers Attain Permanent Homes
WASHINGTON - June 5 - The National Low Income Housing Coalition welcomes the announcement made by the Obama Administration this week that it will step up efforts to help people who lost their homes in hurricanes Katrina and Rita and who are still living in FEMA-issued trailers and mobile homes to attain permanent homes at long last.
FEMA had sent these families notice that they had to be out of the trailers or mobile homes by May 30, 2009. The pledge by the Administration to make sure no one is made homeless again offers needed assurance to many of the poorest and most vulnerable people displaced by the 2005 hurricanes that they will not be evicted from the only home they now have.
FEMA reports that about 3,450 households, primarily in Louisiana and Mississippi, remain in these “temporary housing units.” Most of these units are located on property owned by the occupants. These are families who have not been able to rebuild their homes because their state’s disaster housing recovery programs did not include them or because the recovery funds they have received are not enough. (For example, Mississippi’s program did not cover homes damaged or destroyed by hurricane force winds.) In some cases, homes are partially rebuilt next to the trailers in which families reside. Under the new plan, FEMA will sell the trailers for a nominal amount to people who want to stay on their land.
“The Administration’s plan for FEMA trailer occupants is a long-overdue solution to one of the most vexing housing problems that remains in the Gulf Coast,” said NLIHC President Sheila Crowley. “The new decision-makers in the Administration are examining problems like this with an eye to common sense solutions, overcoming the inflexible, bureaucratic inertia that has characterized the recovery response to date.”
There are some serious barriers to successful transitions for many families, however. The new owners of the mobile homes are required to insure them, but the cost of insurance in the Gulf Coast has skyrocketed since Katrina and may be unaffordable to many of the people the program is intended to help. Both Louisiana and Mississippi have unspent housing disaster recovery funds and they should use these funds to pay for needed insurance.
Also, some local jurisdictions have passed zoning laws that prohibit mobile homes to be permanently installed. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should examine these cases to determine whether they are intended to discriminate against the residents of these homes in violation of federal fair housing laws.
As part of the plan, HUD is also making available $50 million for housing vouchers to the Katrina and Rita affected areas that Congress appropriated in 2008 with a priority for assisting people who cannot stay in the FEMA trailers or mobile homes.
“Lack of affordable housing remains one of the most serious impediments to the full recovery of the Gulf Coast. This week, the Obama Administration took an important step on one aspect of this extremely complex crisis. The National Low Income Housing Coalition looks forward to continuing to work together with our partners in the Gulf Coast and the new Administration towards full recovery for all people of the Gulf Coast regardless of their financial means,” said Crowley.