Disaster Housing Recovery Update, Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hurricane Florence

General

  • Early estimates of property damage from Hurricane Florence range between $17 billion and $22 billion, but could be higher depending on flooding. 
  • Solomon Towers, a public housing development in Wilmington, NC, was badly damaged during heavy rains from Hurricane Maria. The building flooded through the roof, which had not been properly maintained. Many residents remain in their apartments, despite the flooding and lack of power.
  • Many of the cities impacted by Hurricane Florence are smaller and have limited rental housing. Both Wilmington and Fayetteville in North Carolina have less than 1,500 available apartments each, many of them single-family homes. Many landlords are still assessing the damage done to apartments, but the storm will likely lead to a severe rental shortage.

Congress

  • According to CQ Budget, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund still had $24.8 billion available as of last Friday and should receive additional funding before the fiscal year ends on September 30. While this may be sufficient for initial relief efforts in North and South Carolina, some members of Congress have expressed interest in passing an aid package in the next few weeks. 

USDA

  • USDA Rural Development provided guidance for loan holders and servicers in the Section 502 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. Loan servicers are encouraged to extend forbearance alternatives to borrowers impacted by Hurricane Florence and must establish a 90-day suspension of foreclosure actions. Complete details are located in Chapter 18, Section 4, 7 CFR 3555.307 of the SFHGLP Handbook.

North Carolina

FEMA

  • A FEMA news release provides information to survivors about accessing recovery assistance through DisasterAssistance.gov and other resources.
  • FEMA is sheltering nearly 15,000 people in 225 shelters throughout both North and South Carolina.

State Government

  • The North Carolina Department of Public Safety reports more than 150,000 power outages across the state. Residents can call 211 or go to NC 2-1-1 Help Starts Here for information on shelters, food assistance, and storm recovery help.

2017 Disasters

Federal Response

Congress

  • Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) posted a video on the housing title issues and FEMA denials in Puerto Rico, titled American Citizens Are Being Denied Disaster Aid.
  • Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) has filed H.R. 6826, a bill to amend the Small Business Act to provide for disaster loans to repair, rehabilitate, or replace property damaged or destroyed by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria.

FEMA

  • Hundreds of Hurricane Maria survivors, still without homes, were evicted on September 14 from temporary shelter in hotels provided by FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program. NBC News published a comprehensive story on the end of TSA in the absence of the Disaster Housing Assistance (DHAP) program. Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO, is quoted saying, “After other past disasters, longer-term disaster housing assistance has been used to help survivors get back on their feet. It’s not too late for FEMA to do so now. The last thing the federal government should be doing is knowingly causing homelessness for disaster survivors.”
  •  The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long on September 14, calling on the agency to notify directly all Hurricane Maria survivors previously denied Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance due to ownership title issues—whether they appealed or not—and invite them to reapply with the new Sworn Statement for Proof of Ownership.

HUD

  •  HUD has rescheduled the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Problem Solving Clinic from September 18-20, 2018 to December 12-14, 2018 in Atlanta, GA. Any requests for adjustments to registration must be sent to the CDBG-DR Clinic Registrar at trainings@hudexchange.info.
  •  HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will hold a meeting on Tuesday, September 25 to discuss ongoing Hurricane Maria recovery efforts for multifamily owners of properties in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Registration is open until COB on September 21. Register for the Spanish session here, or the English session here.

State Action

  • The U.S. Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority opened a public comment period for residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands regarding an amendment to its Action Plan. The U.S. Virgin Islands received a total of $1.86 billion in CDBG-DR, and HUD has already approved an Action Plan for activities amounting to nearly $243 million. The proposed amendment pertains to an additional $779 million in activities. The announcement is available here, and the HUD requirements are available in the August 14, 2018 Federal Register. The public comment period is open until October 16, 2018. Public meetings will take place on St. Croix on September 24, St. John on September 26, and St. Thomas on October 2. Meeting locations and times are included in the announcement.
  • The Department of Housing and Community Development of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has provided transitional funds for households affected by Hurricane Maria for up to 12 months. The Massachusetts Evacuee Transitional Assistance Reserve (METAR) will assist with moving expenses, rent, and first or last month’s rent or security deposit for those transitioning from shelter into more suitable housing. Hurricane Maria evacuees on state-aided public housing waitlists are Priority 1 (Displaced by Natural Forces). The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency provided a notification to FEMA evacuees hosted by the Commonwealth.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) held a webinar on September 14 on its amendment to the State of Florida’s Action Plan for Disaster Recovery. The additional allocation of $157 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from HUD would be used to address the remaining unmet disaster recovery needs resulting from Hurricane Irma. There will be a 30-day public comment period. The DEO is requesting feedback through an online questionnaire, open until September 21, 2018—designed to help DEO update its unmet needs assessment and action plan.
  • A Wall Street Journal article reports the government of Puerto Rico is offering homeowners federal financial assistance only if they move out of flood-prone areas—not wanting to rebuild on land that is vulnerable to soil erosion and chronic flooding from storms like Hurricane Maria. Advocates say that many living in neighborhoods targeted for relocation are unaware of these discussions and have not been included in the process.

Local Perspectives

  • The New York Times published a Letter to the Editor on September 12 by Saundra Brown with Lone Star Legal Aid, responding to the September 3 article A Year After Hurricane Harvey. Ms. Brown confirms that the poorest of Hurricane Harvey survivors become “. . . entangled in disputes and complications with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”
  • A blog post by Texas Housers states that the Texas General Land Office’s (GLO) proposal for distributing CDBG-DR funds will fail to meet the needs of residents in places like Port Arthur, TX. According to analysis and tracking by Texas Housers of the Hurricane Harvey recovery in Texas, the methodology proposed by the GLO for calculating need and distributing funds to impacted residents underestimates the cost for recovery in low-income communities. Texas GLO estimates the cost of additional unmet need in Port Arthur at $12.9 million – less than half of the $28.2 million estimated by Texas Housers. The Texas GLO State Action Plan is open for public comment until 5:00 p.m. on October 6, 2018.
  • A new study published in the Journal of Emergency Management found that people displaced by Super Storm Sandy were more likely to have PTSD, anxiety, and stress compared to people who were not displaced or were able to stay with friends or family.
  • An article from NPR shares the stories of several low-income families struggling to recover following recent fires in California. Many low income families and individuals may not have renters insurance and receive only a small portion of their need from FEMA. Poverty rates frequently increase in counties impacted by disaster since wealthier residents leave and lower-income residents become poorer.

Working Groups on Disaster Housing Recovery

Puerto Rico

  • Next meeting: October 16 at 3:00 pm EDT

Homelessness

  • Next meeting: September 24 at 3:00 PM EDT

Data Transparency

  • Next meeting: October 10 at 3:30 PM EDT

Policy

  • Next meeting: September 18 at 12:30pm EDT

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

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