Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Wednesday/Thursday, September 13 and 14, 2017

CDBG-DR

Congress appropriated $7.4 billion for CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) money for 2017 designated disaster areas. Implementation of appropriated CDBG-DR will be through Federal Register notices that are treated as regulations. HUD is in the process of drafting a Federal Register notice.

Advocates in states impacted by the hurricanes will want to be familiar with CDBG-DR so that they can effectively influence state and local CDBG-DR required Action Plans. HUD’s CDBG-DR webpage has materials developed before for previous disaster situations which are relevant today. Although written for state and local officials responsible for the use of CDBG-DR funds, everyone active in their communities would benefit from a familiarity with these materials.

  • The CDBG-DR Toolkit has a section for launching a CDBG-DR program and a section for implementation. The latter touches on topics pertaining to multifamily rental housing, small rental rehabilitation, homeowner repairs, and other forms of recovery assistance.
  • The Disaster Recovery Homelessness Toolkit has three guides:
    • The Local Planning Guide is designed to help ensure a community’s disaster plan addresses the needs of homeless and other vulnerable populations.
    • The Response Guide has suggestions for strengthening a community’s entire disaster response effort by addressing the needs of its most vulnerable community members.
    • The Recovery Guide addresses the fact that returning a homeless or precariously housed household to the same condition they had before the disaster is a missed opportunity for both the household and the community.
  • The 2016 CDBG-DR Webinar Series has eight webinars including one that provides an overview of CDBG-DR and one on public participation CDBG-DR Action Plans.
  • The 2017 CDBG-DR Problem Solving Clinics  include one about the basics and other important topics such as the Uniform Relocation Act, environmental review, and subrecipients.

HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

Florida

  • Amendments 3, 4, and 5 to the initial disaster declaration enables renters, homeowners, and business owners in 21 more counties to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA), bringing the total to 37 counties.
  • The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing, the Housing Finance Agency) is suggesting that residents displaced by Hurricane Irma search for available rental housing using www.FloridaHousingSearch.org. Property owners and managers, are urged to help by adding and/or updating their listing of available rental units by clicking here to log into their account with SocialServe, or call them toll-free at 1-(877) 428-8844 for assistance. Florida Housing reminds owners and managers that properties in Florida Housing’s portfolio are required to list with the Locator.

Puerto Rico

More municipios were added to the list of designated areas eligible for disaster assistance. People in Canovanas and Loiza are now eligible to apply for Individual Assistance (IA). Ten additional municipios may apply for Public Assistance (PA) and Hazard Mitigation Grants (HMG).

HUD

HUD issued a Situation Report on September 13. Highlights include:

  • The total number of HUD-assisted Multifamily properties, number of units in those properties, and the number of HUD-assisted units are listed for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico South Carolina, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. No damage assessments are presented.
  • Scattered site vacation villas are being identified in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for potential use as housing for local government employees. Also, 89 units on the east coast of Puerto Rico are undergoing Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections.
  • Some PHAs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have sent damage reports, most seem to be relatively minor water damage or fallen tree damage to relatively few units. Notably, Miami-Dade and Hialeah are still assessing damage.
  • Information from the Seminole Nation of Florida is in the report. Six shelters are open (but two have leaks) housing about 85 people. Public safety buildings at Hollywood, Big Cypress, and Brighton have roof damage beyond repair. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama reports no damage.
  • More than 100 public housing residents from the Tutu Apartments in the Virgin Islands are living in severely damaged homes with nowhere to go.
  • The Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) has capacity to issue vouchers; however, suitable units are not likely to be available on the island. Families will need to port out to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, or PHAs on the mainland. PIH estimates VIHA has budget authority for approximately 100 vouchers for immediate issuance. PIH staff are not yet aware of what emergency transportation resources be available through FEMA. Cruise ships are evacuating residents of the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and Miami, but PIH has not seen this service offered to public housing residents. Coordination of transportation options is needed.
  • Only 50% of VIHA staff in St. Thomas have been accounted for, and they need basic necessities.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Federal prisons. Reports indicate that federal prisons in Texas and Florida may not have been evacuated, unlike state prisons.
  • Loss of power. Many Floridians remain without any electricity, internet, or cell phone service. Authorities are working hard to restore power, especially because the high heat and humidity create health concerns. Power outages have also been reported in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
  • Mobile homes. Manufactured homes were some of the most affected by the storm, but as many as 50% of these homes may lack insurance.
  • Back to back floods. Certain Georgia residents have been hit twice with flooding. Many were still recovering from damages related to last year’s Hurricane Matthew when Irma brought on additional flooding.

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

  • By the Numbers: (As of Thursday afternoon)
  • 223,980 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $346,620,696 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $218,164,003 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $128,456,693 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • Public Assistance (PA) no longer indicated

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Disaster Recovery Center. A DRC opened in Webster.
  • NFIP “Substantial Damage.” A FEMA fact sheet explains “substantial damage” in the context of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The decision about a structure being “substantially damaged” is made at a local government level, generally by a building official or floodplain manager.

Substantial damage applies to a structure in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) – or 1%-annual-chance floodplain – for which the total cost of repairs is 50% or more of the structure’s market value before the disaster occurred, regardless of the cause of damage. This percentage could vary among jurisdictions, but must not be below NFIP standards.

If a building in a floodplain is determined by the local official to be substantially damaged, it must be brought into compliance with local floodplain management regulations. Owners may decide to elevate their structures, or change them in some other way to comply with local floodplain regulations and avoid future losses, or relocate or demolish the structure.

HUD

  • HUD issued a second Situation Report on September 13. Highlights include:
    • FEMA is involved with repopulating public housing residents in the Dallas Shelter.
    • Survivors from the Beaumont area are returning via buses provided by FEMA.
    • While 11 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are open, the Governor, state Emergency Management director, and the FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer are pressing to speed up opening more DRCs. HUD anticipates many more DRCs will open in the next week.
    • By October 1, HUD will have more than 40 staff on the ground.
    • HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) indicates that data for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) applicants and awards, as well as Preliminary Disaster Assessments (PDAs) will be provided as it becomes available.
    • HUD is beginning to draft a Federal Register notice that will govern the use of CDBG-DR funds.
    • HUD reports that FEMA “may have asked” the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) to serve up to 700 new, non-HUD assisted persons currently in shelters. However, prior to the hurricane HHA’s voucher program had a substantial shortfall and was financially oversubscribed. HUD is requesting that FEMA first make such requests to HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH).

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (TDHCA)

TDHCA requested and was granted Governing Board approval to re-program available funds, including HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) funds, to provide disaster-related assistance. The general set-aside for the outstanding 2017-1 Multifamily Direct Loan NOFA is being reduced, and $9,086,316 in general set-aside funds for which no applications have been submitted is transferred to the current HOME Disaster Reservation Fund, also known as the Disaster Relief Set-Aside. There is approximately $2,000,000 currently available; therefore approximately $11 million in HOME funding will shortly be available for this purpose.

LOCAL PERSPECTIVES

  • Water contamination.  Testing of Houston floodwaters, organized by the New York Times, found dangerously high levels of bacteria and toxins caused by sewage contamination. Contamination levels were higher inside homes, so extreme caution around floodwater or the resulting sediment is necessary to avoid infection.
  • Barges providing housing. The Mayor of Port Arthur has announced that two floating barges with living quarters and laundry facilities will help house those left homeless after Harvey. The barges will also provide three meals per day.
  • Mortgage delinquencies. An estimated 300,000 borrowers will become delinquent on their loans in FEMA-designated disaster areas.
  • Rural communities. Many small town ranchers and farms have lost both their homes and their livelihoods to flooding that has killed livestock and destroyed crops.
  • Coastal barrier. Houston Mayor Turner is advocating for a physical coastal barrier that would protect the region from storm surges.
  • Recruiting from shelters. A group has recruited members of Nashville’s homeless community to work on clean-up efforts. They are being asked to work 12 hours a day, six days a week. Advocates are concerned about security and safety issues.

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