Additional Updates on Disaster Housing Recovery – June 18

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 6/11). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

Federal Response


A Vice News analysis found that FEMA has 3,865 workers able to be deployed if a disaster were to strike, about half of the 6,656 workers available a year ago. The position for FEMA’s second-in-command and three of four associate administrator posts are vacant or only temporarily filled.  The agency is also without a director of external communications and a head for insurance and mitigation.

A 2018 Annual Hurricane Briefing was held at FEMA headquarters on June 6 to reflect on the 2017 hurricane season and to discuss the 2018 season that officially started on June 1. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were in attendance, and many governors joined the meeting via video chat. Mr. Trump commended FEMA Administrator Brock Long on his response in Puerto Rico. 

State Action

The Texas General Land Office will use $35.4 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for a buyout program for homes repeatedly flooded in Harris County, TX. These funds will be used to acquire up to 160 single-family homes and help families move out of high flood-risk areas.

Local Perspectives

While Houston, TX, was awarded $1 billion in long-term housing assistance in response to Hurricane Harvey, there will still be an unmet need for housing assistance of over $2.3 billion, disproportionately affecting low income renters.

The New York Times posted a guide explaining discrepancies in the Puerto Rico death count as a result of Hurricane Maria. A Harvard study estimated that over 4600 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria, far more than the official count of 64. The government of Puerto Rico has contracted with George Washington University to conduct a more thorough study of the death toll from Hurricane Maria.

New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade focused on the lack of disaster relief from the U.S. government and the extensive casualties and devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Many called for the “decolonization” of Puerto Rico and spoke to the need for more support from the federal government.