Additional Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – March 5

The following is a review of additional housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California wildfires since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 2/26). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

General Updates

HUD announced on February 22 that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) expanded mortgage relief for FHA-insured homeowners impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the wildfires in California. FHA created a “Disaster Standalone Partial Claim” option designed to help those struggling to resume their mortgage payments.

Senators Claire McCakill (D-MO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Gary Peters (D-MI) found that a company plagiarized its emergency meal delivery contract proposal to FEMA. FEMA ended their $156 million contract with Tribute Contracting, LLC after it failed to deliver sufficient emergency meals to individuals in need. FEMA has had several failed contracts related to their efforts in Puerto Rico.

The Open Society Foundations launched a new initiative to pair U.S. mayors who have experience dealing with disasters stateside with mayors in Puerto Rico. About 40 mayors have agreed to participate in the Mayor Exchange with trips and visits beginning in early March.

California Wildfires

Local Perspectives

Following the devastating wildfires that wiped out thousands of homes, officials in northern California are searching for creative solutions to meet the need for new affordable housing. The goal is to create as many as 30,000 housing units in the next five years. Board of Supervisors Chairman James Gore justified the goal, saying, “We are eroding the character of our county by not allowing people who work here to live here and be a part of the community.”

Hurricane Maria


President Trump authorized an extension of the 100% federal cost share in Puerto Rico. The president originally authorized this cost share for both debris removal and emergency protective measures in September. This order extends the 100% cost share for debris removal for another 90 days and for emergency protective measures for another 60 days.

A FEMA factsheet on childcare assistance options states that individuals affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria are eligible for the Child Care Assistance program. This program provides a one-time payment for up to eight weeks of childcare plus other eligible expenses. Survivors must submit documentation to be considered for the program.

Hurricane Irma


Residents in Hamilton County, FL have until March 9 to apply for FEMA assistance. The major disaster declaration was amended to include individual assistance (IA) for Hamilton County on January 10, so these residents are on a different timeline than the rest of the state.

Local Perspectives

In an interview with a local news outlet, Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers spoke about the affordable housing crisis in the Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma. While affordable housing has always been an issue in the area, the hurricane destroyed thousands of homes, many of which were affordable units. Ms. Carruthers stated that for unincorporated Monroe County, 700 of 1,970 building permits are earmarked for affordable housing, which would only be meeting a third of the need.

Hurricane Harvey

Local Perspective

The Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas released a Recovery Tracker in an attempt to create transparency regarding how federal disaster aid is spent. The interactive dashboard is still a work in progress and includes data from the General Land Office and FEMA.

Texas Housers, an NLIHC state partner, describes the need for equitable recovery in a new blog post. The Texas General Land Office - the agency leading a recovery in the state - used data based on damage to property rather than on the people affected, to create their state action plan. Texas Housers points out that this methodology often overlooks households with the lowest incomes, and the organization calls for it to be adjusted immediately.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared his state would lead their own disaster recovery response, but federal records reveal that the state’s efforts are falling behind previous efforts. Fewer people affected by Hurricane Harvey have been moved into trailers than at the same point after Hurricane Katrina, and housing repairs are happening at a slower pace than following Super Storm Sandy. Many small communities have been ignored.

As the Texas government struggles to implement a new method for implementing disaster housing recovery, many residents are being left behind. Governor Abbott’s decision to have the General Land Office (GLO) run short-term housing programs has not gone as smoothly as hoped. The GLO got a late start – Mr. Abbott didn’t alert the agency of the plan until 19 days after the storm – and tens of thousands of Texans had to rely on neighbors and local organizations for some sort of assistance. Local officials are willing to take the lead on recovery but lack the proper resources and data to do so. The Texas Tribune reports on these and other issues afflicting the recovery in Texas.