Disaster Housing Recovery Update, August 19, 2019

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 8/12).

Federal Action

Senators Rick Scott (R-FL) and James Langford (R-OK) introduced the Disaster Contract Transparency Act. The bill would require state and local governments to have advanced contracts with vendors for debris removal. It would also allow FEMA to penalize contractors that seek to raise prices after a disaster, and limit the amount of funds FEMA can use to reimburse state and local governments for debris removal services. 

National Perspectives 

Since 2003, people affected by 651 smaller declared disasters have not received Individual Assistance due to FEMA requirements governing IA implementation. These requirements favor urban areas and larger disasters, leaving people in small communities to deal with recovery as best they can. 

The Associated Press released a study showing a preliminary finding that disasters caused $1.2 billion dollars in damage to public infrastructure so far this year. Many states have begun to invest in recovery and preventive measures


West Virginia

West Virginia is set to receive more than $100 million in federal disaster mitigation funding.  HUD announced that Federal Register notices guiding the use of CDBG-DR mitigation funds going to numerous states and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be released in the coming weeks. 



Nineteen out of the 23 people who died during the March tornado in Lee County, died in a manufactured home. There are no regulations requiring manufactured home parks to have storm shelters or evacuation plans, leaving manufactured home residents 15 to 20 times more vulnerable to tornado deaths. 

California Wildfires 

On August 16, a dedication and unveiling event took place at the Sonoma Wildfires Cottages where nine fire survivor families will move into their new disaster resistant cottages. 

In northern California, communities like Shingletown are feeling the effects of successive catastrophic wildfires. Low-income residents are slowly leaving, wary of the emerging threat of wildfires and the high cost of housing.  

Hurricane Florence

North Carolina

Gearing up for the rest of this hurricane season, North Carolina continues to  improve their recovery strategies, including finally establishing evacuation zones to help evacuate people who are in the greatest danger. 

2017 Disasters

Hurricane Irma: The state of Florida has begun buying up coastal properties vulnerable to hurricanes and sea level rise. Some experts worry that the move is the first sign of a “retreat from the coast.”

Hurricane Irma: The U.S. Virgin Islands is pushing back against allegations from HUD that the island is not prepared to receive federal recovery funding.

Hurricane Harvey: Houston was granted $1.2 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery, but in cities like Kashmere Gardens, residents have yet to see any recovery efforts. Much of the delay is attributed to making sure applications are filled correctly and that money goes to the right people, but impatient residents suspect fraud or worse. 

Many poor communities and communities of color in Harris County use decades old ditches as their main drainage system to mitigate floods. With a $2.5 billion flood infrastructure bond deal, some of these longstanding issues will have to be fixed. Now the question is, how long will these communities have to wait for repairs? 

Earlier Disasters

Hurricane SandyOfficials in Ocean County New Jersey are getting the word out about the upcoming 2020 Census. They hope that a robust showing in the county will allow greater access to federal funding for disasters. 

Hurricane Charlie: FEMA has been attempting to claw back funds from Charlotte County Florida. FEMA claims it overpaid the county after Hurricane Charlie impacted the region in 2004.