The following is a review of housing recovery developments related to Hurricane Florence from the past week. NLIHC also posts this information at On the Home Front.
NLIHC’s updated estimates suggest that almost 95,000 rental homes affordable to very low income households and nearly 30,000 federally assisted units are located in counties where significant damage is most likely to have occurred a result of Hurricane Florence. Approximately 98,000 very low income renter households live in these counties. NLIHC provides a blog with additional details about these estimates, including a map of the federally assisted housing in the impacted area.
These pictures show the extent of the flooding from Hurricane Florence in many communities and the likely damage that will result. Although the rain and wind have mostly stopped, rivers and tributaries continue to rise. This map shows the communities still at high risk of new flooding. Meanwhile, an analysis from The Washington Post estimates that only about 10% of homes in the counties impacted by Hurricane Florence have flood insurance. Although the federal government requires residents of certain areas to have such insurance, many are unable to afford it or think it is unnecessary. Flood insurance can cover up to $250,000 in damages, whereas FEMA assistance maxes out at $34,000. Low income families are least likely to be able to afford flood insurance or the recovery and rebuilding costs.
Early estimates of property damage from Hurricane Florence range between $17 billion and $22 billion, but they could be higher depending on flooding.
A Major Disaster Declaration (DR-4393) was issued by President Trump on September 14 for eight counties in North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence: Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, and Pender. An additional ten counties have been designated for Individual Assistance (IA) and Public Assistance (PA Categories A and B): Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Lenoir, Jones, Robeson, Sampson, and Wayne. More counties may be designated as assessments continue. FEMA explanations of IA and PA programs are at: HQ-18-127-FactSheet.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced two waivers for North Carolina participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Because many North Carolina residents evacuated to shelters where they cannot store food and lack access to cooking facilities, the first waiver allows SNAP participants to buy hot foods with their benefits through October 31. Under normal circumstances, hot foods and foods ready for immediate consumption cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits.
All students in schools affected by Hurricane Florence are eligible for free school meals through October 26. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina are assisting with the distribution of meals during school closures.
FNS has granted the state of North Carolina waivers regarding SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The state can issue benefits remotely, waive some education requirements where offices are closed, and replace food purchased with SNAP that was damaged or stolen.
Small Business Administration
The 18 counties included in the disaster declaration are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Residents of an additional 13 counties are eligible for Economic Injury Loans only. Physical Injury loans are for repairing damaged or destroyed property (real estate, equipment, inventory, etc.), and Economic Injury loans are to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster.
The SBA has opened a Business Recovery Center in Greenville, NC. SBA representatives at the center can help provide information about disaster loans or assist with completing applications.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called for a special session of the state General Assembly to begin on October 9 to fund initial needs for Hurricane Florence recovery.
For individuals who find themselves unemployed as a result of Hurricane Florence in the counties of Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico and Pender can file an application for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by October 17. Individuals can call 1-866-795-8877 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET to apply for DUA benefits. For local resources and questions, individuals can contact their County Emergency Management Agencies or call 211 for information on shelters, food assistance, and storm recovery help.
The State of North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety has an Emergency Management webpage devoted to Hurricane Florence showing which counties have evacuation orders, disaster declarations, the locations of shelters, and other basic state information. The webpage is at: https://www.ncdps.gov/florence
Local Perspectives & Resources
Legal Aid of North Carolina and other pro-bono legal services have a hotline for disaster-related legal issues: 1-833-242-3549.
Flooding in North Carolina has limited potential emergency shelter options for people experiencing homelessness prior to the Hurricane Florence, and homeless shelters are becoming more crowded as a result. Some of that influx is from farmworkers in the area, many of whom are undocumented. Because the media and government issued very few evacuation and other disaster warnings in Spanish, many Spanish-speaking farmworkers were unprepared for the storm. The North Carolina Farmworker Health Program reports at least 150,000 farmworkers are at risk of displacement.
Residents of the Trent Court public housing development in New Bern, NC, had their homes badly damaged by Hurricane Florence, with some of the 218 units being flooded with eight feet of water. Prior to the storm, the city had approved a plan to tear down the development, which already had several safety issues, relocate its residents, and rebuild only 80 affordable homes in its place.
Solomon Towers, a public housing development in Wilmington, NC, was badly damaged during heavy rains from Hurricane Florence. The building flooded through the roof, which had not been properly maintained. Many residents remain in their apartments despite the flooding and lack of power.
Many of the cities impacted by Hurricane Florence are smaller and have limited rental housing. Both Wilmington and Fayetteville in North Carolina have fewer than 1,500 available apartments each, many of them single-family homes. Many landlords are still assessing the damage done to apartments, but the storm will likely lead to a severe rental shortage.
North Carolina has a large livestock sector, and many of the state’s repositories for animal waste are damaged or overflowing as a result of Hurricane Florence. This waste could be introduced into the water supply, causing health and safety issues for nearby communities, some of the poorest in the state.
A Major Disaster Declaration (DR-4394) was issued by President Trump on September 16, for eight counties in South Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence: Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Orangeburg, and Williamsburg.
Small Business Administration
Residents in Dillon, Horry, and Marlboro counties are eligible for Economic Injury Loans through SBA.
People who lost food purchased with SNAP benefits have until October 15 to report the food loss and request a replacement of benefits. Normal regulations require households to report food loss within ten days of purchase. This waiver applies to 26 counties throughout South Carolina.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and officials from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and the State Disaster Recovery Office sent letters to South Carolina’s congressional delegation requesting continued support. The letters confirm that Governor McMaster has requested both public and individual assistance for 23 counties. The state also provides a preliminary estimate of $1.2 billion needed for disaster recovery, including $540 million for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has a webpage devoted to Hurricane Florence. It has updates on which evacuation orders have been lifted, a list of shelters, updates on road conditions, and other important information. The webpage is at: https://www.scemd.org
An Emergency Declaration (EM-3403) was issued for Virginia on September 11 in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. This declaration makes possible the provision of Public Assistance to any county in the state to help state, local, and tribal governments and certain nonprofits with their emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.
Federal and State Agencies Provide Information Regarding Disaster Regulations
HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs held a stakeholder conference call on September 13 in anticipation of damage to HUD-assisted homes due to Hurricane Florence. HUD is urging Multifamily property owners with vacancies in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee to notify HUD.
HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) published a Federal Register notice on September 12 informing public housing agencies (PHAs) about waivers of HUD requirements they may request in the aftermath of a presidentially-issued Major Disaster Declaration (MDD) during calendar year 2018. In order to obtain a waiver, a PHA in an MDD county must submit a request to HUD no later than four months after the disaster is declared.
The Housing Finance & Development Authorities of Ohio, South Carolina and Indiana sent emails reminding owners of properties assisted by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that IRS Internal Revenue Procedures 2014-49 and 2014-50 provide LIHTC owners temporary relief from income requirements for individuals displaced by a major disaster. Households are eligible for emergency housing in tax credit properties if their principal residence was located in an area eligible for individual assistance. Units leased as emergency housing are subject to the program rent limits. For affected North Carolina households moving to a South Carolina property, the relief period ends September 14, 2019. These regulations apply to those in counties eligible for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA).
USDA Rural Development provided guidance for loan holders and servicers in the Section 502 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. Loan servicers are encouraged to extend forbearance alternatives to borrowers impacted by Hurricane Florence and must establish a 90-day suspension of foreclosure actions. Complete details are located in Chapter 18, Section 4, 7 CFR 3555.307 of the SFHGLP Handbook.