Washington, D.C. – The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of more than 700 local, state, and national organizations commends the decision made on July 3 by the U.S. federal court to bar FEMA from evicting nearly 2,000 families displaced by the 2017 disasters until July 23 to allow the court to hear further arguments. The court’s decision temporarily extends FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) hotel program, which FEMA had decided to arbitrarily end on June 30 regardless of whether survivors had stable, affordable homes to go to. Because FEMA has also rejected requests made by impacted individuals, the governor of Puerto Rico, dozens of members of Congress, and homelessness and housing advocates to activate longer-term housing solutions like the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), survivors face the increased risk of evictions and, in worst cases, homelessness. The lawsuit was filed by DHRC member LatinoJustice PRLDEF with strong support from Faith in Action.
Since the 2017 hurricanes first made landfall, FEMA has refused to activate DHAP, which was successfully used after past disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike and Superstorm Sandy. As a result, thousands of survivors have had no choice but to double or triple up with other families, sleep in cars, return to their uninhabitable homes, or pay more than half of their incomes on rent, making it harder to achieve a full recovery. There are already accounts of individuals displaced by the 2017 disasters who have been referred to state emergency homeless assistance programs as a result of FEMA’s failure to address longer-term housing needs.
“I am heartened that the courts are acting as a check on the Trump administration’s callous and arbitrary policy decisions to further displace disaster survivors,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Congress, too, must hold the administration accountable by requiring FEMA to provide families with the proven longer-term disaster housing assistance that has been used to help survivors get back on their feet after other past disasters.”
Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.