Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – February 16, 2024

HUD announced on February 9 that it had awarded $6.9 million in Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) funding to the State of Hawaii to help individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who were impacted by the catastrophic Maui wildfires in 2023 and whose needs are not being met by existing federal disaster relief programs. The latest allocation of funding is meant to supplement the $1.3 million in RUSH funds that were provided in August 2023 soon after the fires.

First announced in 2022 after years of advocacy by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC), the RUSH program is designed to fill the gaps in federal assistance left as a result of FEMA eligibility requirements that often prohibit the provision of substantive assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness who are impacted by disasters and that typically do not provide sufficient funds to prevent disaster-impacted families from becoming homeless. The funds can be used to provide a family with up to 24 months of rental assistance and utility assistance, as well as supportive services and outreach assistance for individuals experiencing homelessness.  

RUSH funds were deployed in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in 2023. Funds allocated at that time were slow to arrive due to a combination of factors. NLIHC and the National Housing Law Project published a report, “Plugging the Gaps: Recommendations for HUD’s RUSH Program,” making recommendations about ways to improve RUSH in the fall of 2023.

HUD’s announcement coincided with a visit by FEMA and HUD officials to Maui to meet with stakeholders and community leaders six months after the fires that killed over 100 Maui residents and effectively destroyed the town of Lahaina.

Congressional and National Updates

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services Ranking Member Maxine Waters released a letter to FEMA requesting information on how the agency assists lower-income renters and households experiencing homelessness. The letter requests information on how FEMA coordinates with HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as how FEMA collects data on individuals experiencing homelessness and lower-income renters in the aftermath of disasters. The letter also requests information about the newly created ALL INside initiative, which is designed to target homeless assistance to specific communities across the country. 

The “Wildfire Response Improvement Act passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on January 31. The bill contains several important provisions expanding the use of FEMA hazard mitigation and response grants to wildfire-specific activities, such as preventing landslides and post-fire floods. While the bill itself contains excellent provisions, an amendment attached to the bill that would remove the ability of HUD to target long-term recovery funds for the repayment of SBA disaster recovery loans to those disaster survivors most in need of assistance is very concerning to advocates.

Representative Diaz-Balart (R-FL) has introduced a bill requiring HUD to disclose the presence of flood hazard areas when selling agency-owned housing.

More than 18 million rental units are at risk from climate hazards, as extreme weather becomes more common, according to a recent study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While most states have at least one “high-risk” county with 2,000 or more rental units, many of these counties are concentrated in California and Florida.

HHS and HUD announced on February 9 those states that were selected to participate in an Accelerator program that will support states in developing or expanding innovative housing-related supports and services for Medicaid-eligible people with disabilities and older adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The participating states are Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Washington. 

State and Local Updates


A powerful atmospheric river storm that brought heavy rain, mudslides, flooding, and snowfall to southern California in early February unleashed 475 mudslides in the Los Angeles area after dumping more than a foot of rain on the region. Nearly 38 million people were under flood alerts across the state and in Arizona, including approximately 10 million people in Los Angeles County. Three people died in incidents involving fallen trees associated with the severe weather. Significant damage to homes was sustained due to mudslides and storm debris. In response, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Evacuation orders and warnings were in effect for mountain and canyon areas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. Authorities plan to request federal emergency funds to assist in relocating homeless individuals from shelters and to support owners of hillside homes that suffered damage not covered by their insurance companies. Both this storm and the one that preceded it were caused by so-called “Pineapple Express” systems – atmospheric rivers that pick up plumes of moisture from the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian islands. The cores of these low-pressure systems are very deep, and their slow movement causes intense downpours. 

In the wake of the atmospheric river storms in California, KQED spoke with Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director for tenants’ rights group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), about what steps renters should take if their homes have sustained damage from rains or floods.

The LA Times reported that insurance does not cover flooding or mudslides, though in particular circumstances, a homeowner’s policy might cover some of the damage from these events. Damage caused by falling trees or other effects of wind should be included in the coverage provided by homeowners’ insurance policies. Similarly, comprehensive coverage provided in an auto insurance policy ought to cover damage to cars from storms. Less than 5% of the 4.6 million flood insurance policies in the country cover California homes and businesses, according to data from the NFIP. Only 52,820 homes and businesses in the eight southern California counties that declared a state of emergency due to the recent storm were insured. Los Angeles County, which has a population of nearly 10 million, accounts for just 14,580 of those flood insurance policies.

The LA Times put together a guide for tenants whose homes have been damaged by disasters. The article emphasizes that responsibility for repairs lies with the landlord, who must meet habitability requirement for rental properties. Should a landlord fail to fix damage within a reasonable period, a tenant has the option to submit a grievance to the city’s housing department. To support this process, the Coalition for Economic Survival hosts a weekly Tenants’ Rights Zoom Clinic. 

Families in West Hills, California, who experienced mudslides in early February after heavy rainfall are now facing significant personal and property losses. Insufficient flood insurance coverage leaves many vulnerable to disaster.

San Diego County has begun to provide temporary housing to people displaced by January 22 flooding. The county is targeting two groups for this initiative: those who were temporarily housed in hotels but who are now facing the end of their funding support, and those who have not previously been accommodated in hotels but who now require temporary housing. The process of moving people into temporary lodging began over the weekend and is expected to continue throughout the week, with the collaboration of various nonprofit organizations. These individuals were identified as needing emergency housing through surveys and visits to the county's local assistance centers. The county plans to keep in touch with them over the week to assess their ongoing needs. Applications for this emergency housing will be open until February 23. This initiative is funded by a $10 million flood relief program that was unanimously approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on January 30.

Three storms were slated to hit the West Coast this weekend and continue into next week. Significant storm-related impacts are still expected, though rain amounts may end up lower than those resulting from the storm earlier this month.


Families in Mayfield, Kentucky – especially low-income renters – continue to work towards a return to “normalcy” two years after their lives were upended by a destructive tornado in 2022. Experts agree that the current recovery process can be inaccessible to lower-income households and may not provide enough funding for recipients to fully recover, leaving many families facing homelessness in the aftermath of disasters.


President Biden approved a disaster declaration for nine counties in Michigan impacted by tornadoes in August 2023. The decision made funding available to individuals impacted by severe storms in Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties.


The City of Bellevue received a $1.9 million grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to replace housing lost during the flooding of the Missouri River in 2019. Bellevue Mayor Rusty Hike said that the funding would reduce costs associated with 13 homes planned in the southern portion of the community.


The Nashville housing market is still reeling from a tornado outbreak in December 2023 that impacted nearly 800 residential properties and destroyed 144. Andrea Prince, executive director of Rebuilding Together Nashville, argues that affordability is a prime concern and is calling for urgent action to ensure that recovery efforts are focused on the long-term preservation of affordable housing in Nashville through collaborations between the city government, disaster assistance programs, and nonprofits.