The following is a review of housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Florence and Michael since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 10/9). NLIHC also posts this information at On the Home Front.
The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of more than 800 national, state and local organizations shared its Top Priorities for Any Disaster Recovery Package with Congress as it prepares the next disaster relief package for the communities impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. The document, developed by the DHRC Policy Working Group, includes twelve specific recommendations to Congress on how to enhance the federal housing recovery response following natural disasters. They include:
- Provide robust disaster recovery funding and housing assistance for people with the greatest needs;
- Require all damaged or destroyed federally subsidized affordable rental homes to be replaced on a one-for-one basis;
- Ensure that federal disaster recovery dollars are used equitably to address housing and infrastructure needs, as well as the needs of homeowners, renters, and people experiencing homelessness;
- Support innovative, cost-effective housing solutions;
- Promote contracting and jobs for low income disaster survivors and businesses; and
- Prepare for the next disaster by authorizing long-term disaster recovery legislation.
NLIHC compiled initial estimates of the impact Hurricane Michael will have on low income communities. About 20% of the region lives below the poverty line, and as many as 80,000 families lacked transportation to evacuate. Nearly 130,000 affordable rental homes, 43,000 of them subsidized, and over 200,000 mobile homes were in Hurricane Michael’s path. Last year’s storm season had already exacerbated the state’s shortage of affordable housing.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue were briefed on October 11 on the potential impacts Hurricane Michael could have on rural communities. USDA has a number of resources available to farmers and rural communities following major disasters, including a disaster assistance discovery tool.
Hurricane Michael caused power outages and damage in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. State governments issued state emergency declarations and worked with the Red Cross to open temporary shelters. The majority of the damage appears to have occurred in Florida and Georgia.
President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Florida (DR-4399) on October 11. Residents in five counties are eligible for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance: Bay, Franklin, Gulf, Taylor, and Wakulla. In addition to these five, Calhoun, Gadsden, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor counties are eligible for Public Assistance (A-B). This declaration affords survivors and public and private organizations financial assistance to recover from the storm.
The Florida Department of Children and Families announced it would release SNAP benefits early in 11 counties to ensure low income families had resources to stock up on food before and after the storm.
The Florida Department of State issued a memorandum extending the voter registration deadline for any paper voter registration applications for the 2018 General Election relative to any Supervisor of Elections’ offices closed on October 9.
Perspectives & Resources
The Florida Division of Emergency Management is maintaining a list of open shelters.
About three-fourths of all residences in the impacted counties in the Florida Panhandle were built before 2000 when more stringent building codes were enacted in Florida. Additionally, about 22% of all occupied dwellings are mobile homes, which are particularly susceptible to damage during hurricanes.
President Trump issued an emergency declaration for Georgia (EM-3406) on October 11. Providing assistance for state, tribal, and local governments for debris removal and emergency protective measures, the declaration covers 31 counties.
An early analysis suggests that Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) homes fared relatively well during Hurricane Florence, with only 397 of 18,000 units reported as offline several weeks after the storm. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency reports another 37 properties are under construction or will soon start construction in the impacted areas. The South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority has reported no serious damage to LIHTC properties.
Heavy rains and high winds from Hurricane Michael have set back some recovery efforts and increased the need for temporary housing in the Carolinas. Fortunately, Hurricane Michael spared much of North Carolina’s eastern coast, which was greatly impacted by Hurricane Florence.
According to a FEMA fact sheet about Direct Temporary Housing programs, FEMA is providing recreation vehicles (RVs) and manufactured housing units as temporary housing options for survivors in North Carolina. Currently, only nine counties are approved for Direct Housing assistance: Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Onslow, Pender, and Robeson.
FEMA reports that 8,000 homeowners and almost 7,500 renters have received rental assistance from FEMA.
Governor Roy Cooper directed $25 million from the North Carolina Education Lottery Fund to speed repairs to public schools damaged during Hurricane Florence.
Governor Cooper also announced a budget for a long-term funding package for recovery efforts in response to an estimated $13 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Florence. His recommended recovery package totals $1.5 billion and includes $50 million for the Housing Finance Agency to address the shortage of affordable housing, $12 million for the Back@Home rapid rehousing program, and $176 million for a repair and rehabilitation fund. Governor Cooper is requesting the legislature make an initial down payment of $750 million when it returns for a special session this week.
Perspectives & Resources
The Red Cross reversed its decision to close a shelter on October 8 since it served as the only safe option for about 40 people. Many survivors are still unable to return to damaged homes, and some have been evicted because of the storm. Other shelters are also working to find homes for the remaining survivors as they prepare to close.
Families in Burgaw, a community in Pender County, NC, have no running water or electricity following severe damage to the majority of the community’s homes.
Over 100 of the more than 300 housing units at the public housing complex Trent Court in New Bern, NC, are still uninhabitable. Local aldermen and public housing authority officials are working with HUD to receive emergency vouchers for displaced tenants.