Thanks to all of you for the robust interactions during last Thursday’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition call. These spilled over into follow-up emails from several of you, asking to be connected for continued conversation with specific spokespeople, and others expressed enthusiasm for engaging in a couple of smaller subgroups--each with a specific focus, such as the two raised in Thursday’s call.
The first subgroup would revolve around continued challenges in Puerto Rico and the relationship of those with the influx of Puerto Rican hurricane survivors to Florida. The second would explore possible disparities in federal disaster relief to those homeless prior to a disaster and to the newly homeless. I will send out an announcement as to when these two groups will meet initially once those dates and times are set.
Some of you also requested a link to the analysis of FEMA data presented by Texas Housers’ Amelia Adams, which found that the highest concentration of people with unmet housing needs in the City of Houston and Harris County after Hurricane Harvey is in the predominately African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods with low incomes. There is more detail below.
And now just a few updates . . .
Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Melvin Watt addressed concerns about mortgage relief options for homeowners in December in areas affected by the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. These include:
- Eligibility to stop making monthly mortgage payments in 3-month intervals for up to 12 months;
- Waiving of late fees and delinquency reports to the credit bureaus;
- No requirement to catch up on missed payments all at one time;
- Longer term assistance available through modification of existing mortgage; and
- Suspension of foreclosure sales through December 31st, 2017 in FEMA-declared disaster areas.
Four Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition leaders will brief congressional members at the Capitol on Friday, January 12, at the Congressional Visitors Center. Their timely visit will come in advance of a vote on the third supplemental disaster recovery package and provide us an opportunity to support low-income housing investments absent in the proposed House disaster supplemental passed at year’s end.
- Suzanne Cabrera, President/CEO of the Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County and on the board of the Florida Housing Coalition
- Francisco Rodriguez, President/CEO of Coalicion de Coaliciones
- Michelle Norris, Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives with National Church Residences Investment Corporation
- Christina Rosales, Communications Director with Texas Housers
The congressional briefing will be held from 10:00-11:00 a.m. in Senate Room 209 of the Congressional Visitors Center. We would love your help sharing information about the briefing with your Hill contacts and we would love to see you there.
For more information on the briefing and to RSVP, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/disaster-housing-recovery-coalitions-congressional-briefing-tickets-41877549879
FEMA extended the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) Program for another 66 days in Puerto Rico. The extension runs from January 14 through March 20, 2018 with an eligibility review in 30 days. It is worth noting that the NLIHC received the FEMA announcement, but FEMA has still yet to post it on its website.
FEMA opened three disaster recovery centers (DRC) last week with the government of Puerto Rico. DRCs serve homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the hurricanes. Specialists from Puerto Rico municipalities, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration, nongovernmental organizations and the local community are on hand to help survivors (in English and Spanish) register for assistance, answer questions and provide information on the types of assistance available to survivors.
On Jan. 5, FEMA announced an extension of hotel stays through Feb. 10 for eligible Hurricane Irma Survivors (through check out on Feb. 11). The Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) pays for temporary hotel accommodations while individuals look for an alternative place to live. Participants in TSA will receive a phone call telling them whether they are eligible for the extension and what they need to do to remain at their current hotel or find a new hotel. Hurricane Irma survivors who are not currently in TSA but who may be eligible are notified automatically. FEMA pays directly for the room and any applicable taxes. Applicants are responsible for all other incidental costs, such as meals, transportation, etc. Hotels may require a credit card for incidental expenses. A household of four or fewer members is authorized one hotel room and a household of five or more is authorized additional rooms based on a limit of four people per room. TSA-eligible applicants must find and book their own hotel rooms. The list of participating hotels is on DisasterAssistance.gov, under the link Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program or by phoning the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362.
Texas Housers conducted an analysis that identified a correlation between high concentrations of disaster survivors with unmet needs and high concentrations of low income people of color. Much of the area’s low-cost housing stock is concentrated in these flood-ravaged neighborhoods, so much of the region’s low-cost housing stock has been damaged, leaving residents without an adequate stock of affordable housing. When the State of Texas, Harris County, and the City of Houston prepare the action plan for spending $5 billion of HUD CDBG disaster recovery funds, the analysis demonstrates the need for government officials to prioritize funds to disaster survivors with unmet housing needs as well as fund the long denied, missing infrastructure that will protect these neighborhoods from future flooding. The analysis uses FEMA inspection data published by HUD and housing units at the Census Block Group level damaged by Hurricane Harvey and occupied by survivors with what the federal agency classifies as “unmet needs.” Go here to read more and view the 10-minute explanatory video.
The next DHRC conference call is next week on Thursday, January 18th.