Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, April 18, 2018

General

NLIHC has prepared a chart detailing CDBG-DR Allocations and the status of State Action Plans.

Federal Response

Congress

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter on April 16 urging the Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to use CDBG-DR funds to help those struggling to find affordable housing. Florida DEO is responsible for preparing the State Action Plan but has not yet released a draft, which must be submitted to HUD by May 15. Senator Nelson asks DEO to use CDBG-DR funds to provide affordable housing options for low income households, particularly renters. “There needs to be an honest assessment of current and alternative affordable housing options in the state, with an eye toward ensuring supply can meet any future demand in the wake of a storm,” wrote Senator Nelson.

As shared on last week’s call, Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Jenniffer González Colón introduced the Housing Victims of Major Disaster Act (H.R. 5474). This bill would require FEMA and HUD to immediately stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to provide low income, displaced families with safe, decent, and affordable rental homes while they rebuild their lives. The bill also includes provisions expanding the documentation options FEMA will consider when approving housing assistance. This article–discussing the importance and context of the bill–also mentions the DHRC’s support of the proposed bill. 

HUD

HUD is holding several Disaster Recovery Grant Reporting system workshops in May. These sessions are specifically designed for Disaster Recovery grantees and provide an overview of performing key tasks.

Local Perspectives

Lessons from Ike in TX.  Nearly ten years following Hurricane Ike, the island town of Galveston has yet to use $76 million designated for rebuilding public housing. Under the Obama Administration, HUD eventually stepped in to calm fierce community and local government opposition, but the city has yet to build any public housing units. The struggles in this community can provide insight for post-Harvey recovery.

Puerto Ricans in PA. Displaced Puerto Ricans continue to struggle to find affordable housing on the mainland. An estimated 500 Puerto Ricans relocated to Lancaster, PA. Some are currently living in FEMA-funded hotels but know they could lose assistance as early as Friday, the next scheduled eligibility review. Even if a family member is working, the wages are often insufficient to afford a market-rate apartment.

Puerto Ricans in NY. FEMA has suspended TSA assistance for 86 households in New York City. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, 11 city councilmembers, 9 members of Congress, and community leaders signed a letter urging FEMA to reconsider its decision. FEMA found that these households no longer met eligibility requirements. City officials and community leaders are trying to provide assistance for these families and individuals.

Community Meetings in USVI. Governor Kenneth Mapp’s Hurricane Recovery and Resilience Task Force will be holding several community meetings in the coming weeks. The sessions provide overviews of the Emergency Home Repairs Program, which provides free temporary repairs, as well as progress reports.

Regulation Suspension in CA. California Governor Jerry Brown hopes to help provide housing for survivors of the recent mudslides and wildfires by removing certain regulatory barriers to mobile home construction and placement. This recent suspension applies to Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties in the southern part of the state. Governor Brown released a similar notice last year for affected counties in northern California.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico

Adi Martinez, Directora Ejecutiva of Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la Justicia, will be a part of a small but broader group of disaster-recovery advocates who will speak by conference call with the FEMA Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) on April 19th.  She will raise the issue of FEMA’s inconsistent application of what’s required to establish owner occupancy, i.e., a written statement/official declaration does or does not have to be notarized. 

A select group of attorneys with prior experience on title issues from Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina will work with a probate estate attorney in PR to determine if FEMA’s affidavit decision in TX (or something similar) can be recognized in PR.  These will be presented to the FEMA OCC.

Once the PR state plan is released, the group will work together on a press conference/briefing to raise the collective concerns about any inequitable impact on the lowest income people.  The Puerto Rico Housing Department (Departamento de la Vivienda del Gobierno de Puerto Rico) created a new webpage for CDBG-DR, complete with a schedule for the State Action Plan—the draft of which is to be released on May 10, 2018.


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

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