Federal Response

Senators Warren (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Markey (D-MA), Harris (D-CA), and Representative Velazquez (D-NY) introduced The U.S. Territorial Relief Act of 2018 to terminate certain debt obligations for survivors of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The bill provides territorial relief for debt, creates a PR debt restructuring compensation fund, and creates an audit commission in Puerto Rico.

HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its final review of whether the Office of Block Grant Assistance (OBGA) should codify the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.  Although OBGA had managed billions in Disaster Recovery funds since 2002, it had not codified CDBG-DR because it believed it did not have the authority.   The OIG recommends that the Acting Director of OBGA work with its Office of General Counsel to codify the CDBG Disaster Recovery program.

HUD released its “Housing Damage Assessment and Recovery Strategies Report Puerto Rico.”

Local Perspectives
An article in the Orlando Sentinel argues that victims of Hurricane Maria should receive the same assistance that survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy received. This includes standing up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP).

Current and displaced tenants of Arbor Court Apartments in Houston, Texas have filed a suit against HUD and the apartment owner over years of flooded apartments and dangerous and unsanitary conditions. The tenants are represented by Lone Star Legal Aid and Daniel and Beshara.  The lawsuit seeks to end Arbor Court’s partnership with HUD and provide tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers and assistance in obtaining affordable, safe, and decent housing. 

The Association of Pro Bono Counsel has partnered with the legal education company TalksOnLaw, the NY State Chief Judge’s Task Force on Hurricane Relief, New York Legal Assistance Group, and celebrity spokesperson, Adrienne Houghton, to create a YouTube video, entitled “5 Common FEMA Mistakes to Avoid.”  

The Disaster Legal Aid 2018 Roundtable Series will feature Introduction to Federal Disaster Benefits and the ABA Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program on Thursday, July 26, at 4:00 pm EDT.  Go here to register.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico
Members of this WG in Puerto Rico are hosting NLIHC CEO Diane Yentel at several meetings this week, including a collective discussion with Puerto Rico’s Housing Secretary Fernando Gil-Ensenat.
Next meeting:  August 21 at 3:00 pm EDT

The WG is working with two 2017 disaster survivors to post their first-person stories on an upcoming blog.
Next meeting:  August 27 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency
The WG’s pro bono counsel met with the Office of Chief Counsel at FEMA this week to discuss specific questions around the quality of FEMA’s data and collection protocols.
Next meeting:   August 1 at 3:30 PM EDT

Next meeting:  July 31, 12:30 PM EDT

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