Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – January 14, 2019

The following is a review of disaster housing recovery developments since the last edition of Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in the previous Memo, see 12/17). NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

Legislation and Congressional Action

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) along with Senators Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA), Schumer (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), and Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the “National Commission on the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act of 2019” (S. 23) on January 3. Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) also introduced a companion bill (H.R. 229) in the House. This bill would establish a commission to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico. A similar proposal was introduced during the last Congress. Read Senator Gillibrand’s press statement here.

Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced the “Disaster Housing Assistance Program Accountability Act” (H.R. 7385) on December 20, 2018. The bill would establish three DHAP pilot programs and would require reporting on the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of each pilot. The bill will need to be reintroduced in the new Congress.

2018 California Wildfires


FEMA has extended the deadline to apply for FEMA Disaster Assistance to January 31. Survivors can apply online, by phone, or in-person at a Disaster Recovery Center.

California residents who do not have fire insurance – or have received insurance settlements less than the cost to repair the damage to their homes – may apply to FEMA for help with wells and septic systems that were damaged or destroyed by the November 2018 wildfires in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties.

Local Perspectives and Resources

CBS News ran a piece highlighting some challenges Camp Fire survivors are having finding permanent housing in Northern California, where there was already a severe housing shortage before the fire destroyed 14,000 homes and displaced 35,000 people. Ed Mayer, executive director of the Housing Authority of Butte County, estimates that the fires could triple the number of homeless people in his county to 6,000.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Disaster Field Operations Center-West announced that the SBA has approved more than $255.5 million in federal disaster loans for California businesses and residents impacted by the wildfires in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties. According to Director Garfield, the SBA has approved $10,027,000 for businesses and $245,562,600 for residents to help rebuild and recover from the disaster.

Hurricane Michael



FEMA recovery fact sheets for Bay, Jackson, and Gulf counties report that 599 households are checked into hotels through the FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program and another 17,677 homeowners and renters have been approved for rental assistance. Additionally, FEMA states that 17,000 survivors still need to provide FEMA with information from insurance settlements to complete their disaster assistance registrations.

State and Local

The Florida Public Housing Corporation has awarded a $30 million grant to hurricane-affected counties to build subsidized housing, for which the application process could last around a year, according to Bay County Commissioner Phillip Griffitts.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is releasing $5 million in disaster funds to nine impacted counties of the Florida Panhandle. Tier 1 counties include Bay, Calhoun, Gulf and Jackson; Tier 2 counties include Franklin, Gadsden, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington.

Local Perspectives and Resources

Researchers from the University of Kansas are investigating Hurricane Michael’s impact on elevated residential buildings in the Florida panhandle, where recorded wind speeds reached and exceeded design wind loads along the coast. The team is collecting data on elevated wood homes and elevated manufactured homes to better inform standards for building codes and local decision-makers.


To date, Georgia has been approved for over $54 million in FEMA grants and SBA disaster loans to help homeowners, renters, and businesses. Twenty-seven Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) throughout Georgia counties saw 14,665 survivors and are now closed. FEMA inspectors have completed 19,899 property inspections.

Hurricane Florence

North Carolina


FEMA issued a Fact Sheet with information regarding resources for the unmet needs of North Carolina Hurricane Florence survivors.

State Action

The North Carolina Department for Public Safety (NCDPS) reports that 320 households (about 900 individuals) remain in hotels through FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program and 483 FEMA manufactured housing units have been installed. FEMA is reaching out to households participating in TSA to discuss their long-term housing plans.

Governor Roy Cooper urged homeowners impacted by Hurricane Florence to apply for the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program, which provides free temporary, partial repairs to homes with less than $17,000 in damage.

North Carolina’s share of the $1.14 billion in CDBG-DR funds appropriated in the fall of 2018 for Florence recovery remains unclear as the federal government shutdown continues. The state’s Emergency Management spokesman Greg Thomas stated that while active grants allow the state’s work to continue, the delayed publication of the required Federal Register notice is slowing the allocation of recovery funds and a $168 million grant for recovery activities.

Local Perspectives and Resources

Lumberton, NC, officials found that despite widespread destruction from Hurricane Florence, homes built after 2005 under the city’s new freeboard requirements were not damaged. The 2005 ordinance required all new buildings to be elevated two feet above the Base Flood Elevation. Homes built prior to these requirements reportedly experienced far greater damage.

2017 Disasters

State Action

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing) Board of Directors approved the awarding of financing for the construction of two workforce housing developments in Monroe County, following a request for applications issued in October 2018 offering over $1.8 million of Competitive Housing Credits and $15 million in State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) funding to applicants for hurricane recovery.

Local Perspectives and Resources

City officials approved a contract to release Houston’s share of Texas’s federal block grants for hurricane recovery – $1.17 billion in housing funds. Guidelines for the programs that will be financed have yet to be voted on, but previously mentioned plans include homeowner assistance for repair reimbursements, multi-family rental construction, and single-family home construction for low- and moderate-income Houstonians.

The Florida Keys Community Land Trust has approved four “tiny house” concepts in Monroe County following a request for proposals released in August 2018. The intent of the project is to evaluate the ability of tiny houses to serve as resilient, affordable workforce housing for County staff, as well as to provide code-compliant prototypes of replacement housing.

Several recent articles highlight the added difficulties people with disabilities face during disasters. Many emergency plans do not adequately consider the various needs for individuals with disabilities. The fact that several of the victims of the recent Camp Fire in California are people with disabilities highlights the need for additional resources and planning. Even as communities rebuild, new resilient buildings, such as those on stilts or other risers, can be inaccessible to people with limited mobility.