The following is a review of 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 10/1). NLIHC also posts this information at On the Home Front.
- Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tina Smith (D-MN) sent a letter to U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN), urging the Committee to hold hearings to assess the impact and challenges of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the health and educational systems of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Watchblog featured a blog on September 27 that provides an overview of how FEMA’s Individual Assistance program works. The post features a flowchart outlining how the individual assistance, public assistance, and hazard mitigation assistance funds are activated and distributed. The blog post is based on a GAO report from May 2018 titled, Individual Assistance Requests Often Granted but FEMA Could Better Document Factors Considered.
- FEMA published a Fact Sheet with information on how people with disabilities can prepare for disasters. The Fact Sheet links to a Ready.gov resource page with specific steps that individuals with functional needs can take when planning for a disaster.
- Enterprise Community Partners sent a letter to Neal Rackleff, assistant secretary for Community Planning and Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD-CPD) outlining ten recommendations for maximizing HUD investments in disaster mitigation. The recommendations “seek to provide context, requirements, and incentives that would allow HUD and grantees to have a greater impact in reducing risk to natural hazards for a generation or more.”
- A toolkit for recipients of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds is available through the HUD Exchange website. The toolkit, which includes guidance on how to launch and implement CDBG-DR programs, was developed by ICF and HUD based on their work with CDBG-DR grantees.
- An article in Bloomberg BNA discusses multiple new laws enacted to “give new power to the fire marshal to enforce fire-safe zoning measures; require insurers to report on rate increases, surcharges, and denials in high-risk fire areas; and mandate battery backups in garage door openers.” The Bohemian, a northern California periodical, also reported on the 28 fire-related bills passed by the California state legislature since the October 2017 wildfires.
- According to an article in Capitol Weekly on the federal and state responses to the 2017 California wildfires, FEMA received 25,425 registrations for interim housing, of which only 866 were fulfilled. The article points to the state’s existing shortage of affordable housing stock as exacerbating the challenges of locating adequate and affordable temporary housing after the disasters.
- An article in CityLab discusses the possibility of flaws in the method of distribution (MOD) used by the Texas General Land Office in its Harvey Action Plan, which distributed funds based solely on storm impact, not taking into account how pre-existing community needs may have contributed to worse conditions. According to the article, the “three cities with the highest black populations are also the three cities with the very lowest funding, . . . and those cities had a lot of people who were impacted who were extremely low income.”
- DisasterLegalAid.org - a collaboration between Pro Bono Net, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps - will host two webinars in October:
- The first webinar, “Community-Based Strategies and Lawyering in the Wake of Natural Disasters,” will take place on October 11 at 3:00 p.m. ET. The speakers are Ariadna Godreau-Aubert and Mariel Quiñones Mundo of Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico and Jean-Luc Adrien, Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps fellow at Community Justice Project. To register, click here.
- The second webinar, “Ready, Willing, & Able: Organizing the Legal Community’s Response to Disasters,” will take place on October 24 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. ET. To register, click here.
- Ayuda Legal PR, which provides education and free, accessible legal assistance to low income persons in Puerto Rico, recently launched a new website, RecuperacionJustaPR. The Spanish-language website includes resources and information on how advocates and citizens can participate in upcoming public hearings to determine the use of close to $20 billion in CDBG-DR funds for long-term reconstruction of communities affected by the 2017 disasters.