Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – March 14, 2022


BuzzFeed News examines the growing risk of basement flooding as the shortage of affordable housing pushes more renters below ground. Officials across the country are looking to convert more basements into housing, but the consequences of extreme weather events are becoming dire for renters living in basement apartments, including illegal units not designed for people threatened by hazards like fire and flooding.


Since Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana six months ago, more than 563,500 applications for FEMA Individual Assistance have been approved, putting more than $1.16 billion in the hands of survivors. To date, FEMA has paid more than $334 million in grants for repairs and more than $309 million in rental assistance. Over 4,500 households have been approved for FEMA’s Direct Temporary Housing program, and 1,480 households are currently in temporary housing units and other facilities directly leased by FEMA.

Chester County, Pennsylvania, is urging property owners with homes for rent to open their doors to the 38 people from 17 households who are still living in hotels six months after their homes were destroyed by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Many of the families have county-issued federally funded housing vouchers that would cover the rent, but the lack of available apartments has kept these families in limbo.

North Carolina’s New Bern Sun Journal reports that nearly three and a half years after Hurricane Florence flooded almost half of the apartments in Trent Court, the New Bern Housing Authority has finally made progress in demolition efforts at the site. The New Bern Board of Aldermen gave the city approval to hire a consultant to perform an environmental review of the demolition area, the first step in the process of securing funding from FEMA for the demolition of the 12 Trent Court buildings that were permanently closed due to flood damage. No discussion has been held between the housing authority and the city about the redevelopment of Trent Court, but the housing authority says that the views of community members will be reflected in the final plan.


Homeowners and renters affected by December’s tornadoes in middle and west Tennessee have until Tuesday, March 15, to apply for federal disaster assistance.


After a call with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced on March 7 that April rents for 2020 fire survivors living in FEMA temporary direct housing would not be due until May 1 and would be lower than market rates for some families. Following Senator Wyden’s discussion with Administrator Criswell, FEMA confirmed that a previous announcement that market-rate rents would be due on April 1 was made in error and that rents would not be due until May 1.

The New York Times reports that three wildfires that started last week in the Florida Panhandle have burned more than 29,000 acres and are threatening surrounding communities amid dry and windy weather. The fires, which are collectively called the Chipola Complex, are being fed by dead trees and other vegetation left by Hurricane Michael in 2018. So far, two homes have been destroyed and others have been damaged.


New research finds an increased risk of death from infectious disease, heart disease, neuropsychiatric conditions like dementia, and lung disease in the six months after a hurricane. “The youngest, fittest, and richest are able to evacuate, but many others aren’t,” said study author Robbie Parks, who noted that many low-income and historically marginalized people live in hurricane-prone areas. “Improving the infrastructure and housing quality in low-income or underserved areas may help reduce risks of dying during and after a hurricane,” he added. The findings were published on March 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.