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 6/4). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.
A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) covering the period from 2008-2016 found that guidelines for why FEMA accepted or rejected requests for Individual Assistance (IA) from states were unclear and inconsistent. It also found that FEMA regions did not consistently obtain and document information on all elements of established IA regulatory factors when making IA recommendations to FEMA headquarters.
FEMA representatives were in the greater Houston area June 4 to June 9 to provide expertise and advice on how to protect homes and prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.
FEMA spent $74.7 million on a “floating hotel” cruise ship for federal workers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. While the ship was supposed to house 2,056 workers, the average number of nightly passengers was under 800. This came at a rate of $5,959 per person per week, paid for with tax-payer dollars.
The Texas General Land Office (GLO) is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin to conduct research on the housing needs of homeowners and renters affected by Hurricane Harvey. This research will help the GLO identify the best type of housing assistance for individuals receiving CDBG-DR funds. The survey opened on June 4 for two weeks, and can be found at: www.harveysurvey.com.
HUD announced new job opportunities in Houston, TX, and San Juan, PR, including regional relocation specialists and environmental protection specialists in the Office of Community Planning and Development.
A protest was held outside of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on June 2 demanding an audit on the number of casualties caused by Hurricane Maria. The demonstration was in response to the recently published study that estimated the death toll from Hurricane Maria to be over 4,646 people, far higher than the official death toll of 64. Citizens in Puerto Rico also protested the inaccurate death toll by placing shoes to represent those who died from Hurricane Maria in front of the capitol building in San Juan.
Hurricane Maria damaged or destroyed over 250,000 roofs, leaving most citizens in substandard living conditions. The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) installed 59,500 tarps (“blue roofs”) designed to last only a month, and many survivors were forced to install these tarps without professional assistance. In addition, it was reported that only 0.11% of applicants to FEMA’s Individual Housing program received the maximum assistance of $33,000, while most received less than $5,000.
It is estimated that one quarter (100,000) of first-lien home mortgages in Puerto Rico are in some stage of delinquency or foreclosure, and well over half of these are hurricane-related. For the third time since Hurricane Maria made landfall, HUD has announced a foreclosure moratorium for survivors across Puerto Rico, this time until August 16.