WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is poised to unveil a plan today that it says will help find safe and affordable housing for Gulf Coast families still living in FEMA trailers, without anyone being evicted.
The plan includes making $50 million in new housing voucher rental assistance available to Gulf Coast housing authorities; providing more hands-on case management for every family still in temporary housing; and offering those families the opportunity to buy mobile homes and smaller park models from FEMA for as little as $1.
The administration also is encouraging Louisiana and Mississippi to use millions in federal Recovery Act dollars to help cover security deposits, utility bills and other costs for low-income families making the transition to permanent housing. The Recovery Act included $26.1 million for Louisiana and $14.3 million for Mississippi in "homelessness prevention" money that can be used for that purpose.
The announcement comes two days after the latest deadline for people occupying temporary FEMA housing to get out. The Federal Emergency Management Agency ordinarily can provide the temporary assistance for only 18 months after the date of a disaster declaration. But, because of the extraordinarily catastrophic nature of the 2005 hurricanes, the deadline has been repeatedly extended.
Officials said the Obama administration is determined to try to solve the problem this summer, rather than simply postponing the day of reckoning yet again, while not leaving anyone in the lurch.
"As the FEMA temporary housing program ends, HUD is stepping up to ensure that we provide the resources needed to help these families transition, " said Fred Tombar, HUD senior adviser for disaster and recovery programs.
"We understand that transitions can be a time of uncertainty, and no one will face evictions from a temporary unit while these new measures are implemented, " FEMA spokesman Clark Stevens said.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement was made, said that the new interagency approach with FEMA and HUD is "part of a larger evolving strategy on the Gulf" and a clear signal of the president's determination to make good on his commitment to speed the region's recovery.
The official noted that the nettlesome problem of how to get FEMA out of the housing business, without stranding the most vulnerable victims of the storm, had cast a shadow on the Bush administration's performance in the Gulf.
The administration said there are about 3,450 households in Louisiana and Mississippi displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who still are living in FEMA transitional housing, two-thirds of them in Louisiana. In Louisiana, 1,590 households are in travel trailers, 533 are in mobile homes and 193 are in the somewhat smaller park models.
The travel trailers are not considered a safe or appropriate long-term housing option. The mobile homes and park models can be if they pass a safety and formaldehyde inspection.
Under the new plan, those living in mobile homes and park models that meet safety standards can buy their unit and stay in it. The park models would go for $1 and the larger mobile homes for $5. Those in travel trailers could move out of their trailer -- which would be junked -- and buy a mobile home or park unit for that same price and, subject to local zoning restrictions, move it to the same location on their property where the travel trailer was.
The administration expects to have 600 to 700 of those mobile units available, both from people moving out of them, and from existing inventory. Those who earlier bought a mobile home from FEMA for hundreds or even thousands of dollars would be eligible to have the difference between what they paid and the new nominal fee refunded.
Being able to remain on their property as they rebuild their homes is considered crucial for many people because, as Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, noted, too often, someone working on a home would leave for the night and "come back and find their copper coil and air conditioners gone and that somebody came during the night and ripped out all their wiring."
The administration official said they will decide in the next week or two on a contractor that can provide "strong case management" to help people explore their options.
Administration officials also are meeting with members of the Gulf Coast congressional delegation to work on legislative language "to provide states and communities with more flexibility in how they use (already appropriated federal) money so it can go toward helping people finish rebuilding."
Click to view image: '96b8c89c5613-trailer.jpg'
In: News, Other
Tags: FEMA, hurricane, Obama, HUD, Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav
Location: Washington, District of Columbia, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
Views: 8241 | Comments: 20 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
|Liveleak on Facebook|