Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Monday, November 27, 2017

Reminder of Advocacy Opportunity

  • Deadline Extended to Wednesday, November 29 (noon ET) to Join Sign-On Letter. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law extended the deadline to join a sign-on letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson about the urgent need to enter into a strong Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) with the City of Houston. The VCA is needed to address violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 identified in a letter HUD sent to the City of Houston on January 11, 2017. HUD’s failure to resolve the Title VI violations through a VCA with Houston would seriously hinder the City’s efforts to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey because Houston would not be able to certify that it is affirmatively furthering fair housing, thereby presenting an obstacle to Houston’s eligibility to receive CDBG-DR funds. On November 17, HUD announced that it was allocating just over $5 billion in CDBG-DR funds to Texas for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, some of which the state will undoubtedly target for Houston. That action only increases the urgency to resolve this issue, and to do so in a way that expands housing choice for low income people in Houston and that is consistent with the fair housing obligations of the City, the State of Texas, and HUD itself. If you have questions, please contact Joe Rich at the Lawyers’ Committee at jrich@lawyerscommittee.org. For further background see Disaster Housing Recovery Updates from November 9 and November 15.

Congress

  • Hearings and Work on Next Disaster Spending Bill. This week, Congress will hold oversight hearings on the disaster recovery efforts, including a hearing with the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee on November 30 regarding FEMA, and a hearing with the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee on December 1 regarding CDBG-DR. In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass by Friday, December 8, either another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) or longer-term spending bills. Congress is also beginning work on the next disaster spending bill, with the intention of attaching it either to the CR or final FY18 spending bills that come toward the end of December.

HUD Inspector General

  • IG Assesses Puerto Rico’s Proposed CDBG-DR Agency. In response to Congressional concerns regarding a new entity that Puerto Rico intends to use to administer CDBG-DR, HUD’s Office of Inspector General (IG) undertook an assessment of the Office for the Socioeconomic and Community Development (ODSEC). On February 15, 2017, ODSEC became Puerto Rico’s reconstituted state entity responsible for overseeing the regular State Community Development Block Grant program. The previous entity, the Office of the Commissioner for Municipal Affairs (OCMA) also administered $30 million in 2008 CDBG-DR funds.

ODSEC proposes to delegate CDBG-DR grant activities to three other state entities: the Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority would address housing, the Infrastructure Finance Authority would address public facilities, and the Department of Economic Development and Commerce would address business loans and grants.

The IG’s assessment focused on the housing aspects of ODSEC. Thirty-two of ODSEC’s 103 employees transferred from OCMA. HUD had previously given OCMA a “high risk” assessment score of 75 for the regular CDBG program and a “high risk” score of 58 for its handling of the 2008 CDBG-DR program. HUD had previously given the Housing Finance Authority a “medium risk” score of 36.

The IG lists five areas of concern, two of which are:

  1. ODSEC is staffed with former OCMA employees. Previous IG reports found that OCMA made slow progress, and that activities did not provide intended benefits or were used for ineligible activities.
  2. Puerto Rico was not able to spend its 2008 CDBG-DR funds in a timely manner. HUD staff indicate that slow progress was due in part to staff turnover after every election period.

Finally, to complicate matters, on October 28, 2017, Governor Rosselló created the Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office of Puerto Rico (CRRO), which is to be responsible for planning, administering, processing, and overseeing the work of reconstruction paid for with private, state, or federal funds. The IG indicated that ODSEC officials could not explain how CRRO would affect the proposed framework for administering disaster funding or what ODSEC’s role would be.

General Update

Op-Ed in The Hill. Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO, published an op-ed in The Hill detailing the importance of prioritizing housing during the disaster recovery process. She shares the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition’s recommendations to ensure recovery efforts are “complete and equitable.”


CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

FEMA

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 4,141 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $12,097,480 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $7,662,944 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $4,434,536 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • Federal Cost Share Increase. On November 22, President Trump increased the federal cost share for emergency protective measures from 75% to 100% for 30 days.

HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 244,279 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $198,871,160 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $93,044,433 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $105,826,727 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $446,886,960 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated, all for emergency work  (Categories A-B)**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 792,757 referrals
  • 537,851 pending applications
  • 1,297 withdrawn
  • 10,014 ineligible

U.S. Virgin Islands

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 5,100 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $10,824,962 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $8,832,429 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $1,992,533 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $105,405,081 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated, all for emergency work    (Categories A-B)**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 15,859 referrals
  • 11,556 pending applications
  • 73 withdrawn
  • 536 ineligible
  • Incident Period Closed. The incident period for the disaster is closed effective September 22, 2017

USDA

Resources for Famers and Local Governments. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing $10.9 million in funding to help farmers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The initiative is through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) and will provide both financial and technical assistance. Those interested will need to file an EQUIP application, although NRCS has issued several waivers to help expedite the process. The NRCS is providing an additional $1.75 million to local governments to help restore damaged and destroyed infrastructure through the Emergency Watershed Protection program.


HURRICANE IRMA

FEMA

Florida

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 749,293 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $934,388,084 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $642,734,189 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $291,653,895 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 1,885,007 referrals
  • 273,386 pending applications
  • 85,121 withdrawn
  • 513,671 ineligible
  • 20,417 participants in TSA

Georgia

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 9,049 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $12,475,101 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $9,145,860 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $3,329,241 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $585,260 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $34,259 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 27,005 referrals
  • 5,093 pending applications
  • 1,822 withdrawn
  • 8,151 ineligible

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 1,079 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $2,338,657 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $1,181,280 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $1,157,378 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $2,871,448 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated, all for emergency work (Categories A-B)**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 3,312 referrals
  • 1,411 pending applications
  • 117 withdrawn
  • 861 ineligible

U.S. Virgin Islands

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 5,912 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $14,267,919 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $11,765,068 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $2,502,850 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $4,133,931 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated, all for emergency work      (Categories A-B)**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 11,821 referrals
  • 6,292 pending applications
  • 145 withdrawn
  • 984 ineligible
  • Floodplain or historic property restoration activities. FEMA posted an initial public notice concerning activities that may affect historic properties, activities that are located in or affect wetland areas or the 100-year floodplain, and critical actions within the 500-year floodplain. The public notice explains relocation considerations based on Executive Orders concerning federal actions affecting the floodplains, wetlands, and other considerations, as well as on those based on the National Historic Preservation Act. Similar notices have been published for Texas, (see: Update 10/2), Florida (see: Update 10/10), Georgia (see: Update 10/31), and South Carolina (see: Update 11/20).

Local Perspectives

  • Manufactured Homes. Even before the devastating hurricane season, the manufactured homes industry was having trouble keeping up with the demand, with sales on new units growing 15% annually. Many of the units that are available have higher-end details, making them more expensive and out of reach for low income households. This issue is even worse following the hurricane season as people in Florida and Texas look to replace their destroyed units, only to discover they cannot afford anything on the market.

HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

Texas

By the Numbers: (as of 11/27)

  • 354,972 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,429,616,633 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $1,109,476,706 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $320,139,927 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $497,724,109 Total Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated**
  • $434,785,984 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) obligated**

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the state via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Individual Assistance Numbers: (as of 11/2)

  • 730,699 referrals
  • 44,551 pending applications
  • 45,842 withdrawn
  • 249,241 ineligible
  • 52,050 participants in TSA

Local Perspectives

  • Debris Removal Cost Share. The Texas state government authorized funding to assist city and county governments with their cost share expenses associated with FEMA’s Public Assistance program for debris removal. City and county governments are expected to pay up to 10% in cost-sharing with FEMA. The state government will provide 50% of those funds up front.
  • Recovery in Houston. Families continue to struggle three months following Hurricane Harvey. Families are not always able to all stay in the same place and struggle with transportation, cooking their own meals, and paying for additional expenses. Many people continue to rely on FEMA’s TSA program while they wait for additional resources. The Houston Chronicle reports that these families have spread to over 1,500 hotels across the country. A local TV station reports that 22,208 children are still considered homeless because of Harvey.
  • Long-term Rebuilding. The various agencies involved in the recovery process face several challenges in estimating the housing recovery needs in Texas. Lack of data, privacy laws, and differing formulas result in a range of estimates that can leave some families out of the equation. Housing advocates worry that governments, federal or local, will underestimate the housing needs and allow for spending on other projects.

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