Additional Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – September 4

The following is a review of housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the 2017 California wildfires since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 8/27). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

Federal Response


FEMA responded to a request from six U.S. senators with a letter outlining how the Agency will provide outreach for the new proof-of-ownership Sworn Declaration developed by Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition member organizations in Puerto Rico with FEMA’s Office of Chief Counsel. FEMA also addresses how it will handle appeals using the new documentation.

Following FEMA’s approval of the use of the Sworn Declaration to verify home ownership in Puerto Rico in the absence of formal title, an informational webinar is now available online in English and Spanish.  Developed by Ayuda Legal Huracán María, Fundacion Fondos de Acceso a la Justicia, and Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, the webinar provides an overview of the relevant federal regulations, the legal framework in Puerto Rico, and the contents of the Sworn Declaration. 

State Action

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) released a Hurricane Harvey: Texas At Risk report, which makes 18 specific policy recommendations, including that HUD “rewrite the formula for the allocation of funding to municipal and county governments directing aid to low- and moderate-income people.” The GLO also recommends consolidating funding for all temporary FEMA housing into one block grant to states at high risk for natural disasters and consolidating the disaster housing programs of FEMA, HUD, and the Small Business Administration into one agency or department to “eliminate competing missions and business systems, which slow down the temporary housing response.” Read a press release on the report here.

 A new study released on August 28 estimates that, between September 2017 and February 2018, Hurricane Maria caused 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico - a dramatic increase from the official government estimate of 64 deaths. The analysis was commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico and conducted by researchers at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Local Perspectives

The Washington Post featured a story describing the enduring effects of Hurricane Harvey on Texas’s low income residents. The ‘Harvey Homeless’ shows how Houston’s working-class and lower-middle-class communities still live in poor, unsafe conditions and cannot afford the repairs necessary to make their homes livable.

Researchers from The Kaiser Family and Episcopal Health foundations published on August 23 a report of findings from surveys of residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, titled One Year after the Storm: Texas Gulf Coast Residents’ Views and Experiences with Hurricane Harvey Recovery. Survey results reveal short-term effects of the hurricane on impacted residents - particularly on blacks and Latinos and on those with low incomes. According to the survey results, these affected communities are more likely to report financial problems, “such as falling behind in their rent or mortgage, having problems paying for food, taking on extra work, or borrowing money from friends and relatives to make ends meet.”

According to reporting from Public Radio International (PRI), power was finally fully restored to Puerto Rico on August 24, “11.5 months after it first went out and more than a week after the island’s power authority announced electricity had been fully restored across the island.”

The NLIHC-led DHRC has posted the first of two first-person survivor stories on the NLIHC blog, On the Home Front.  Titled “A year later & I’m still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey,” the blog post marks the recent one-year anniversary of the hurricane’s landfall in Texas and highlights the persistent housing-related challenges faced by low income survivors.


A Spanish version of NLIHC’s outline of the key provisions of the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) Federal Register Notice is now available. NLIHC thanks our DHRC partner, Francisco Rodriguez, president and CEO of Coalicion de Coaliciones, for his assistance in the translation of this document.  The English version is available here.

The Federal Reserve Bank Dallas-Houston Branch, will host an “Interagency CRA & Disaster Recovery Listening Session” on September 20, from 8:30 am-2:30 pm CT. The focus is on lessons learned before and after Hurricane Harvey and disaster-recovery lending, investments, and other services offered under the Community Reinvestment Act. Seating for this event is limited, and registration will close once capacity is reached. Go here to register.

A Helping Handbook is now available for individuals and small businesses affected by the summer 2018 fires in northern California. The handbook, developed by Morrison & Foerster LLP, provides up-to-date, practical information on many subjects, including housing, government benefits, and FEMA assistance.