Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Federal Response

Congress

The House Homeland Security Committee is hosting a field hearing on Hurricane Harvey Lessons. The hearing will be held on April 9 at 10:30 AM CDT at Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress, Cypress, TX.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memo with guidance for agencies regarding the implementation of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 as it relates to emergency supplemental appropriations. Among other issues, the memo calls for agencies to ensure that “grantees expend all awarded disaster relief funds within the 24-month period following the agency’s obligation of those funds unless waived by OMB.”

FEMA

FEMA is seeking landlords in Puerto Rico to participate in the Direct Lease and Multi-Family Lease and Repair programs. FEMA pays participating landlords directly to help provide homes for displaced survivors.

Local Perspectives

Florida Affordable Housing. The Heart of Florida United Way has launched a new housing assistance program for displaced Hurricane Maria survivors. The program is limited to assisting those whose homes in Puerto Rico were declared uninhabitable by FEMA and are working.

Florida Funding for Repairs. Funding from the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program will soon be allocated to local governments hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. The funds will assist income-qualified households in need of repairs to their homes, including evacuees in Florida from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Seniors Struggle in Puerto Rico. Older Puerto Ricans face additional issues as they struggle to find healthy foods and necessary medicine.

Lessons for Texas. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas published a report about the redevelopment of affordable public housing following Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Ten years later, the continuing hardships affected communities still face could offer lessons for Hurricane Harvey recovery.

Lawsuit against Texas GLO. In late March, Texas Housers filed a lawsuit against the Texas General Land Office (GLO) to seek access to data on the agency’s short-term housing programs. Despite repeated requests for data on the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) and Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair (DALHR), GLO maintains they are unable to share that information. Texas Housers asserts this is a violation of the Texas Public Information Act. A judge is expected to make her decision about a temporary injunction next week.

DHRC Working Groups

Policy

Advocates met with staff from the office of Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) to offer recommendations and revisions regarding her bill to authorize the CDBG-DR program. The working group is drafting a formal letter to Rep. Wagner outlining these recommendations.

Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) is expected to introduce a bill that would address the issues arising from survivors’ lack of titles for their properties. The bill also requires FEMA to allow HUD to stand up the DHAP program. NLIHC staff are following up with Senator Harris about a Dear Colleague letter in the Senate.

On behalf of the DHRC, NLIHC has submitted a request to meet with FEMA Administrator Brock Long to discuss the agency’s response to the longer-term housing needs of low income survivors. Specifically, the request asks to discuss FEMA’s refusal to stand up DHAP, the need to collect and make public data, and the necessary steps to address the unique housing needs in Puerto Rico.  

Next meeting:  Every Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 EDT.

Puerto Rico

Focus: After discussing the steps Lone Star Legal Aid took to get FEMA to accept these affidavits in Texas in the absence of ownership title documents, there is interest in pursuing a similar strategy for Puerto Rico, where informal housing arrangements are common.  Many families have been denied FEMA assistance when a family cannot produce legal proof of ownership. Disaster advocates from Katrina and attorneys from Puerto Rico in the Working Group (WG) suggested that Puerto Rico—like Louisiana–conveys ownership automatically upon a death to family heirs, so affidavits might be a strategy that would work in PR.  The Office of Chief Counsel of FEMA said that each state should have equivalent laws which may allow an applicant to be considered the owner.

Next steps:  Attorneys in Puerto Rico and Texas along with national support attorneys will meet to understand PR’s estate laws to determine if affidavits like those recognized by FEMA as proof of ownership in Texas can be developed and applied in the commonwealth. 

Next meeting:  April 17 at 3:00 PM EDT

Homelessness

Focus:  The WG will pursue the policy goal of securing the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program in statute and work to incorporate within it policies that address challenges unique to the broader challenge of homelessness. 

Next step:  Discuss the current legislation by Rep. Wagner (R-MO) and a long-term strategy for moving a fuller bill that incorporates the DHRC’s priorities.

Next meeting:  April 30 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency

Focus:  The WG has been in ongoing discussions with FEMA’s Deputy IHP Branch Chief in Washington relative to FEMA’s protocols for processing applications for federal assistance.  It has also met to share the numerous FOIA requests to FEMA for data at a more granular level.  

Next step:  The WG will review the applicant data on OpenFEMA that Fair Share Housing and partners secured from FEMA. It will also develop a comprehensive list of data for a letter to FEMA.

Next meeting:  April 6 at 1:00 PM EDT


Read previous Disaster Housing Recovery updates at: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster

 

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