The following is a review of additional housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California wildfires since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 2/20). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.
According to a FEMA update, the FEMA inspection team has completed 94% of requested housing inspections, and the Small Business Administration has approved 159 loans for homeowners and renters.
The USDA will provide an additional $1.27 billion to provide temporary food assistance to residents of Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria. The grant will be distributed through the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) administered by the USDA beginning March 1. The maximum allotment for a family of four will now be $649. The grant funding comes from the “Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements of 2017,” which passed in October.
On February 14, the Puerto Rico Housing Department suspended a $133 million contract to repair homes after a review board determined the contractor, New York-based Adjusters International, did not meet several requirements. The company had already been enrolling residents and conducting inspections, and the decision to suspend the contract could further delay recovery efforts.
Philadelphia Mayor Kenny has the ability to refer up to 50 families who were victims of a natural disaster for rental assistance from the Housing Authority. Through this special program, families would be placed at the top of the public housing waiting list, but the city government had referred only two families as of February 15. Due to limited public housing resources, city officials said they felt it would be unfair to move Puerto Rican families ahead of others who have sometimes been waiting years. Advocates for the families expressed frustration that the program was not being utilized.
Vamos4PR, a Florida group representing Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, spoke at an Orange County Commission meeting, urging the board to pass resolutions that would protect funding for affordable housing in the Sadowski Federal Trust Fund. These funds have been swept into the general treasury fund every year for over a decade.
National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in Special Flood Hazard Areas may request extra funds, known as Increased Cost of Compliance, to upgrade a structure to comply with local building regulations.
Following Hurricane Irma, the number of students in the Florida Keys recieving free and reduced meals at school has increased from about a third to almost 60%.
According to a FEMA update, 8,750 households remain in FEMA-funded hotels, and 1,923 survivors are in temporary disaster housing.
An update from the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas reports that repairs have been made on 3,500 homes through the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) program, with another 10,300 homes in the process, and over 170 homeowners are currently participating in the Direct Assistance for Limited Home Repair Program (DALHR).
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is refusing to share data on the progress made related to short-term housing programs. Texas Housers, an NLIHC state partner, has urged the agency to share the data in an effort to ensure the State is helping those most in need. Officials say an agreement with FEMA prohibits them from sharing data, contrary to the Texas Public Information Act.
The Houston Rising Coalition for an Equitable Recovery, which consists of several Houston-area community organizations, submitted comments about the Texas State Action Plan concerning housing, jobs, and environmental health and justice. The coalition recommends the GLO prioritize housing over infrastructure for federal funding and implement greater community outreach and participation strategies. The group also suggests covering construction-related employees with worker’s compensation insurance.
Despite 74,000 flooded homes, Jefferson County - where Port Arthur is located - received no funding in the GLO’s State Action Plan. A quarter of Port Arthur’s residents live below the poverty line, and additional financial resources are necessary for the area to rebuild and recover, especially after additional flooding occurred in January, 2018, following heavy rainfall. Lone Star Legal Aid’s Equitable Development Initiative’s Environmental Justice team represents the Port Arthur Community Action Network (PA-CAN); both organizations have been advocating for low income families in the area.
Texas Housers and other Houston-area community groups are encouraging renters, who make up half of Houston residents, to share photos of health and safety concerns in their apartments using the hashtags #OutOfOrder and #descompuesto. A new report from Heather Way and Carol Fraser of the University of Texas School of Law Entrepreneurship and Community Clinic, Out of Order: Houston’s Dangerous Apartment Epidemic, demonstrates the poor conditions and limited options facing low income Houston renters. The report uses data collected prior to Hurricane Harvey, and safety and health concerns have increased significantly after the storm.