The following is a review of additional disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 02/10).
Federal Action and National News
Measures to combat climate change have once again been left out of President Trump’s budget request. The spending blueprint for FY21 also lays out significant cuts to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff and programming.
The House Veteran Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the “Veteran’s Home Loan Disaster Recovery Act,” which would reduce home-loan fees to veterans affected by natural disasters. Representative Joe Cunningham (D-SC) stated, “When disaster strikes, every American – especially our veterans and service members – deserve to know that their country is there for them.”
Emergency Legal Responders, a Louisiana-based organization working in disaster recovery, is asking legal aid organizations to fill out a survey to determine the extent to which legal professionals are aware of existing disaster legal resources, whether or not they use these resources, and how effectively they believe their legal community has mobilized such resources in past disasters.
Puerto Rico Earthquakes and Hurricane Maria
Nine additional municipalities in Puerto Rico have been approved for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program, bringing the total up to 25.
FEMA has approved the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for six municipalities in Puerto Rico. TSA provides eligible earthquake survivors temporary hotel or motel lodging. This move comes after members of Congress wrote to the agency asking for the program to be authorized.
Approximately 175 students have fled Puerto Rico to enroll in Connecticut schools since a string of earthquakes rattled the island beginning in December, 2019. More than 2,000 students migrated from Puerto Rico to Connecticut to attend school since the Hurricane Maria in 2017. In response, the Connecticut Department of Education may request additional federal assistance for both Connecticut and Puerto Rico to meet the need. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined other members of Congress in asking the HUD Office of the Inspector General to investigate a potential violation in the Impoundment Control Act due to HUD’s failure to release disaster recovery funds.
Tropical Storm Imelda and Hurricane Harvey
Developers in Houston have submitted proposals to build 23 mixed-income apartments in the city after Hurricane Harvey. Approved developers would receive tax credit assistance and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.
A Hurricane Harvey buyout kick-off meeting was held in Grimes County to discuss guidelines and funding for the buy-out process. Grant funds are limited, so officials urge eligible participants apply in time.
Hurricanes Florence and Matthew
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) and other state officials visited homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew. Officials look to receive CDBG-DR funds for rebuilding of Hurricane Florence-affected areas soon as well. “Many North Carolinians are still feeling the impact of these storms,” stated the governor.
Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity totaling $100 million will be used to pay for housing projects in 13 counties negatively impacted by California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. Under pressure from disaster recovery advocates, including Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) members, California Treasurer Fiona Ma withdrew her plan to utilize some of the tax credit funding for homelessness projects in non-fire-affected areas.
Caseloads for disaster case managers in Northern California are growing as the recovery from California’s 2018 wildfire season continues. Despite new training initiatives, many case managers are being overwhelmed.
The Chico City Council is debating accepting a zoning appeal that would prevent a resident from providing temporary housing for Camp Fire survivors on their property. The city Community Development Director approved the property owner’s request to house four RV’s on the site, but an appeal was issued from an adjacent neighbor citing concerns about noise pollution, water supply, and waste management.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced the launch of a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) effort to access more than $735 million in CDBG-DR funding to provide long-term recovery assistance for Hurricane Michael-impacted communities. The DEO will be holding public hearings for individuals to provide input on the State Action Plan.
REBUILD Northwest Florida, a residential hurricane mitigation program, is closing for good due to dwindling funds and completion of projects for likely clientele.
Bay County’s county manager provided optimistic updates regarding Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and stated, “Housing is the county's number one priority moving forward.”
2011 Massachusetts Tornado: Springfield, MA was hit by a deadly tornado in 2011 that destroyed a significant number of homes in the Maple High-Six Corners area of the city. While the recovery has been progressing, the city received no bids for three lots slated to be used for affordable housing. City officials said they would now reevaluate the bidding process and seek more proposals.