A Resource for Engagement with State Action Plans. The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of more than 700 organizations provided a comprehensive set of policy recommendations that advocates can use with state governors to ensure that Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Action Plans provide a fair and equitable recovery. The recommendations emphasize: recovery funding to ensure all households receive the housing assistance they need to get back on their feet; investments in public infrastructure and environmental remediation to meet the needs of low income people and communities; and adoption of transparent data and reporting standards. Read the DHRC state disaster recovery recommendations at: http://bit.ly/2IhQoMs.
DHRC submitted written testimony in development of the CDBG-DR-required action plan in Puerto Rico. A set of recommendations were submitted to HUD on behalf of the DHRC in response to a week-long series of public information sessions held on the island. These recommendations highlight the unique challenges in Puerto Rico, including the large number of homeowners without clear title, the need for alternative methods to provide public input, and the widespread and high rates of poverty–particularly in rural and mountainous regions.
FEMA Provides Alternatives for Verifying Proof of Ownership in Puerto Rico. By law, FEMA must require proof of ownership and occupancy from disaster survivors who apply for federal assistance to help with repairs to their damaged homes. When all forms of verification are destroyed or don’t exist, FEMA may accept a signed self-declaration. If home ownership or occupancy cannot be proved, some individuals or families may still qualify for other available disaster assistance to cover damaged or destroyed personal property. Applicants who need legal assistance regarding home ownership documentation and cannot afford an attorney may call the free Disaster Legal Services hotline at 800-310-7029.
Deadline Extended for Private Non-Profit (PNP) Organizations Applying for FEMA Funding. FEMA Public Assistance provides grants to eligible government organizations and PNPs for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged facilities. The program also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events with hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process. The application deadline for PNP organizations in Puerto Rico has been extended till April 3.
Long-term Help Remains for Hurricane Irma Survivors. Twenty-six Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRG) across Florida–supported by a variety of nonprofits and FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons–are helping Irma survivors connect with resources. The nonprofits work to assist unmet disaster-related needs of people who may need more time and resources to recover. Specialists from several federal agencies also offer support by working with local groups to help build communities better prepared to face disasters.
Experiment with post-Harvey housing helps far fewer than expected. This Houston Chronicle article outlines how FEMA’s experiment of pushing responsibility on Texas for short-term disaster housing – as opposed to relying on DHAP and other federal programs – has left thousands of survivors without the help they need. It’s a story of unnecessary delays, mismanagement, lack of capacity, and communication breakdowns–all of which leave families struggling to make ends meet. It also underscores the need for congressional action on DHAP and other solutions.
HUD and City of Houston Reach Fair Housing Agreement. The City of Houston and HUD announced a joint agreement on March 9 to expand housing choice and mobility for lower income residents, including those experiencing homelessness and victims of Hurricane Harvey. The set of affordable housing policies resolve a 2017 HUD finding that Houston’s housing policies violate the federal Civil Rights Act. “For decades, the politicians have made decisions that compelled poor families in subsidized housing to live in racially segregated, high poverty areas,” said John Henneberger, with the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. “Mayor Turner has exercised his power to choose where he wants to live. The Fair Housing Act says that he must stop denying the citizens he governs that same right.”
Read previous Disaster Housing Recovery updates at: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster