Additional Updates on Disaster Housing Recovery – May 21

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 5/14). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

General Updates

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) extended the foreclosure moratorium to borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages affected by Hurricane Maria. Foreclosure actions are suspended until August 16, 2018.

The HUD Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) released a report on the Texas General Land Office’s capacity to administer Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding. HUD-OIG recommends the agency expand its capacity to ensure it properly spends the more than $5 billion in disaster recovery funds. The report includes specific recommendations, including increasing staffing and updating procurement and expenditure policies and procedures.

Hurricane Maria

Local Perspectives

A Puerto Rican family that evacuated to Philadelphia after Hurricane Maria shares the impact having long-term housing has made for them. They were one of seven evacuated families to receive an apartment from the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Other families in New York are struggling to find longer-term housing and stabilize their lives before the Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program expires on June 30. One family has found work but does not earn enough to move out of the FEMA-funded hotel. Others have found that their uncertain housing situation and lack of reliable transportation makes securing employment difficult. The largest number of evacuees are in Florida, where the shortage of affordable housing makes leaving hotels difficult. With a new hurricane season approaching and the power still not fully restored in Puerto Rico, many of these families are not planning to return to the island.

Hurricane Irma

Local Perspective

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity submitted its finalized State Action Plan to HUD on May 15.

On May 3, Florida Governor Rick Scott granted 1,300 building permits for affordable workforce housing in the Florida Keys. If counties accept the permits, they must ensure that those living in the new homes evacuate within 48 hours of tropical storm winds reaching the Keys’ shore. This provision has caused some controversy, with some groups stating it is “unrealistic and unenforceable.” Some county officials point out that the number of permits is not the problem. Key Largo has 450 permits for affordable housing, but developers are not using them.

The Florida Keys Community Land Trust is a new initiative to help create more affordable homes in the area. Property damaged by the storm is placed in a public trust, which allows any newly constructed homes to remain affordable. Funding for the Trust comes from local groups and donations from seasonal residents.

Hurricane Harvey

Local Perspective

The Texas General Land Office has released for public comment an amendment to the $57.8 million State Action Plan. The amendment reallocates $8 million to the Harris County Residential Buyout Program. HUD has already approved the overall Action Plan, but public comments on the amendment may be submitted by 5:00 pm CT on May 24.

Residents of Port Arthur, TX are frustrated by the lack of recovery assistance. Some have been waiting since Hurricane Rita for funding to repair their homes. Despite the dire need for such repairs, the local government has decided to forego a home repair effort in favor of a program for first-time homebuyers.