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 6/17).
HUD has published updates to the duplication-of-benefits requirements for Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grantees. The new rules apply to disasters as far back as 2015 and allows for more homeowners to use CDBG-DR money to repay loans they received from the Small Business Administration for housing repairs. The number of homeowners eligible under the new rule is still unclear.
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the “Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act” on June 13. The bill would reform FEMA’s disaster declaration process, making it easier for FEMA to declare disasters in rural areas and allowing federal grant programs to be activated.
Pew released a new interactive tool based on a study on the cost savings provided by disaster-mitigation funding. The tool allows for comparisons of 2018 data regarding flooding, fire, and wind mitigation projects. The study found that for every $1 of federal grants spent on mitigation, $6 in post-disaster recovery costs are saved.
The deadline to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance for victims of flooding in nine disaster-affected counties in Iowa and Nebraska is July 1.
President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration for 10 Ohio counties. The state has had substantial flooding and tornado activity destroying or damaging over 1,700 homes and businesses.
In tornado-ravaged Dayton, residents of five damaged affordable apartment complexes were quickly evicted by the City of Dayton in a manner the City Council called “hateful” and “inappropriate.” Renters were warned it could take up to eight months to find additional housing due to the lack of affordable options in the state.
California utility company PG&E has settled with over 20 municipalities and public entities for damages caused by the 2018 and 2017 wildfires. The $1 billion fund still, however, must be approved by the judge presiding over PG&E’s bankruptcy. The city of Paradise is set to receive $270 million. Butte County will receive $252 million.
Due to the affordable housing crisis exacerbated by Hurricane Michael, mental health professionals are having trouble finding housing in the area. In the wake of the disaster, the shrinking pool of providers cannot keep up with the increasing demand for mental health services.
The lack of housing is also affecting Florida’s construction industry, as skilled workers are unable to find affordable homes in the Florida panhandle. As a result, contractors are struggling to keep up with repairs while construction demand is at a high, raising costs by as much as 30%.
Officials in Lumberton found that several area churches violated fire codes by housing over 30 hurricane recovery volunteers in church offices. If no solution is found, the churches are concerned volunteers will avoid the area due to the high cost of housing.
Hurricane Maria: A group of contractors brought on by FEMA during the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico says they were fired after pointing out waste and fraud. The contractors were hired to implement a best-practices system during the agency’s response to the storm. They contend that after they sent multiple complaints to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general about fraud and waste during FEMA’s response to the storm, they were fired a month later.
Hurricane Irma: The Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) announced a plan to demolish, relocate and rebuild its public housing stock. The plan would demolish and replace 1,555 units. VIHA also announced plans to transition approximately 85% of its housing stock from public housing to voucher-based housing.
Hurricane Harvey: A rule imposed by the Texas General Land Office (GLO) bars local governments from using federal recovery grants to repair homes with more bedrooms than resident family members. The GLO contends the rule allows the funding to reach more people, but it also prevents some Texans from repairing homes that have been in their families for generations.
Hurricane Harvey: Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed four different pieces of legislation providing state funds for Hurricane Harvey relief. The bills included $1.6 billion for mitigation projects, the creation of a disaster recovery loan program, and a host of training and preparedness programs. The state legislature also voted to provide over $3 billion for Hurricane recovery statewide.