The following is a review of disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 3/25).
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report, “Disaster Recovery: Better Monitoring of Block Grant Funds Is Needed” on March 25. The report details the slow spending of Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for the 2017 hurricanes and recommends Congress permanently authorize the program. The GAO included additional recommendations for HUD to better administer the program.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General found that FEMA mishandled the personal information of disaster survivors who participated in the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program following the 2017 disasters. FEMA unnecessarily provided survivors’ financial information to a contractor, although the agency stated it does not believe the data was comprised.
HUD published a notice in the Federal Register on March 25 stating their intention to store information about applicants for FEMA disaster recovery assistance in their Public and Indian Housing Information Center (IMS/PIC). This database contains information related to public housing authorities, HUD-assisted families, HUD-assisted properties, and various HUD programs.
President Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Nebraska (DR-4420) on March 21. Residents in 14 counties and the Santee Indian Reservation are eligible for Individual Assistance, and a total of 70 counties and Tribal governments are eligible for Public Assistance. FEMA provided a fact sheet on what assistance is available under these programs.
President Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Iowa (DR-4421) on March 23. Residents in 5 counties are eligible for Individual Assistance, and 56 counties are eligible for Public Assistance. More information on what assistance is available under this declaration can be found here.
2018 California Wildfires
According to a data firm’s analysis of home-sales data, housing affordability in Butte County has decreased after the fires more than in any other county in the state. The median sales price for a home has increased by 17% in the past six months.
In anticipation of the six month anniversary of Hurricane Michael, the Panama City News Herald is publishing readers’ first-person stories about the storm and the recovery.
Panhandle residents continue to struggle to find any form of temporary housing, and those who have secured a rental home face skyrocketing rents as a result of the increased demand. A report from CBS News provides images and the stories of survivors trying to rebuild their lives.
Due to the delay of a supplemental disaster aid package, none of the military housing at Camp Lejeune and other bases in the state has been repaired six months following Hurricane Florence.
Marion County was hit by both Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence and certain areas are still struggling to recover. The county is facing pressure from the state and FEMA to enforce its Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, despite the inability of many residents to afford the cost of elevating their homes.
The Texas General Land Office released Amendment 3 to its state action plan for the administration of $5.676 billion in CDBG-DR funds for Hurricane Harvey recovery. The amendment re-allocates funds toward the Multi-Family Affordable Rental and Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering (PREPS) programs in addition to outlining uses for direct allocations to Harris County and Houston. The amendment is open for public comment through April 20.
Local Perspectives and Resources
A Washington Post article details some of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) struggles with its housing needs, including houses still left without water, electricity, or roofs. The territory faced an affordable housing crisis before Irma that was worsened by the storm and exacerbated by the need to shelter the thousands of relief workers and contractors. FEMA and the Virgin Islands’ government have relied on the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program to provide home repairs, but about 700 households with the most serious issues continue to wait for assistance.
The USVI government contracted with two global engineering firms to complete repairs under the STEP program. These firms have completed repairs for about 7,000 households, but many homeowners who have received assistance experienced substandard work and persistent issues. Subcontractors to one of the firms, AECOM, state the company owes them millions of dollars for completed work. The USVI’s Senate Finance Committee has subpoenaed AECOM after the company failed to attend a hearing about these complaints.