NLIHC members, partners and friends,
Floridians are just beginning to assess the damage caused by one of the strongest hurricanes in our country’s history. The early images of destruction are breathtaking and heartbreaking. Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle, one of the state’s most impoverished regions, as well as some of the poorest areas of Alabama and Georgia. Approximately 20% of the region lives below the poverty line; some impacted communities have as many as a third of their residents living in poverty. Over half a million very low income people were in the hurricane’s path, with as many as 80,000 of these families lacking reliable transportation with which to evacuate. Our thoughts are with them all, and with the first responders working to save lives.
Even before Hurricane Michael, Florida’s low income people were struggling with a severe shortage of affordable homes. For every 100 of the lowest income Floridians, there are just 26 affordable homes available to them. Before the hurricanes of 2017 and 2018, the state faced a shortage of nearly 600,000 affordable rental homes for the lowest income people.
Last year’s hurricanes exacerbated this crisis. Hurricane Irma damaged over 50,000 mobile homes and over 9,500 affordable apartments. After Hurricane Maria, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, many of them very low income, left their badly damaged homes and neighborhoods and moved to mainland areas with strong Puerto Rican communities. Florida Governor Scott estimates nearly 60,000 “new Floridians” have remained in the state. This rapid increase of low income renters strains one of the country’s tightest and least affordable housing markets.
Hurricane Michael will further intensify the crisis. According to our initial estimates, nearly 130,000 affordable rental homes, 43,000 of them subsidized, and over 200,000 mobile homes were in Hurricane Michael’s path - all at risk of damage or destruction from the hurricane’s fierce winds and high water. Each home represents potentially displaced low income people and families, with few affordable alternatives and little reason to trust the federal government will provide them with the resources they need to get back on their feet.
After the immediate response and recovery work is finished, the difficult and much longer-term work to rebuild begins - in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, just as it does in North and South Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas. NLIHC is committed to working with our state and other local partners in all impacted communities, and with national and other allies, to achieve an equitable and complete housing recovery that prioritizes the needs of the lowest income renters and people experiencing homelessness.
NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of nearly 800 local, state and national organizations and impacted people, many with extensive experience with disaster housing relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts from Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and most major disasters since, stands ready to work with low income survivors and communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. Our principles for an equitable recovery will guide our work as we advocate for Congress to advance our top disaster housing recovery and rebuilding priorities. You can join our efforts here: http://nlihc.org/disaster-housing-coalition
The work of the DHRC is critical. Disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, just as inequality and our nation’s housing crisis grows. The lowest income people and communities are consistently the hardest hit by disasters; they are least financially able to evacuate prior to a storm and, without dedicated advocacy and focus, most likely to be left behind in its recovery and rebuilding. Together we must ensure that low income people can access the housing resources they need to recover — from the 2017 and 2018 disasters and those yet to come — and rebuild to alleviate the affordable housing crisis and withstand future storms.
Please join us.
Thank you for your dedication and partnership,