Chrishelle Palay, NLIHC board member and director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) Coalition, joined last week’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) Disaster Recovery Working Group to discuss “But Next Time,” a limited-series podcast on community-based disaster response and recovery. The four-part podcast, one of five innovative media projects created by the Rise-Home Stories Project, will lift up powerful narratives of collective action transforming how communities prepare for and respond to climate-fueled natural disasters. Check out the official trailer and the Spanish-subtitled trailer.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD announced on November 16 an award of more than $5.3 million in federal disaster relief and recovery assistance to Lake Charles, Louisiana to assist the city’s recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The new Community Development Block Grant Declared Disaster Recovery Funds (CDBG-DDR) are intended to help Lake Charles communities rebuild and become more resilient to future disasters.
Are you a housing provider in or near a disaster-impacted area? If you have vacant units, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants to know! The agency is operating a pilot program to collect information on alternative housing for those displaced from their homes by disasters. Let HUD know via their survey form here. Filling out this form is completely non-binding, and information will be shared directly with HUD offices and FEMA.
FEMA released a statement on November 15 on President Biden signing the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” into law. The bipartisan infrastructure deal provides FEMA an additional $6.8 billion to address climate change through mitigation projects and establishes a new cybersecurity grant program. These funds complement additional mitigation grant programs, including the $3.46 billion FEMA committed through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program in August, and the $1.16 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities and Flood Mitigation Assistance grant programs.
The Washington Post outlines how FEMA’s hazard mitigation program failed to save a community that applied for help four years before a wildfire scorched the California town. As natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, the Biden administration is directing more resources toward mitigation, but this shift may be difficult. FEMA has spent only $1.5 billion of the $11 billion allocated to the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants program over the last decade. Most of the funds are stuck in bureaucratic delays, leaving communities waiting years to start on urgently needed mitigation work. The Washington Post analysis found that FEMA is about half as likely to fund grants for rural areas, and that lower-income counties and areas where white people are a minority face longer delays in getting grants approved.
As climate disasters become more frequent and costly, federal officials are directing resources to reinforcing America’s infrastructure before those disasters strike. According to CNN, about $50 billion of President Biden’s infrastructure package is marked for climate resilience, which includes projects like replacing roads to withstand extreme rainfall, wildfire prevention, and shoring up reservoirs. FEMA will use most of its $6.8 billion allocation for mitigation projects, such as elevating homes that have been repeatedly impacted by flooding.
After reviewing a state-mandated Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, the Santa Barbara (California) Board of Supervisors identified low-income renters, people experiencing homelessness, mobile home residents, people in overcrowded homes, people of color, and undocumented immigrants as some of the groups most at risk for climate change-related impacts. The county will use the report to create policies to prepare for, respond to, and recover from damage caused by climate change-related hazards, including wildfires, severe weather, flooding, and droughts.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on November 15 following days of severe wind and rain that led to extensive flooding in parts of the state. The flooding displaced more than 500 Whatcom County residents from their homes. Of those residents, approximately 280 moved to three shelters quickly stood up in response to the flooding.
After Hurricane Ida devastated many working-class immigrant communities in September, killing 45 people in the New York metro region, about 20 families displaced from their homes have been residing at the Radisson Hotel. Documented NY reports many of the hotel guests received letters from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development stating they would need to check in to shelters in Brooklyn just days before they were forced from their hotel rooms. A city representative told Documented that the mayor and New York City Emergency Management extended the guests’ stay at the Radisson for an additional six nights, but she declined to discuss any long-term solutions for the displaced Ida survivors.
Over a year has passed since the Almeda Fire hit Southern Oregon, destroying thousands of homes and displacing those households. FEMA provided housing and direct assistance to some residents, but many households who did not qualify for aid continue residing in hotel rooms across Jackson County. As of October, there are 431 wildfire survivors staying in Jackson County hotels. FEMA replaced just 25 of the 700 homes that were destroyed by the fire in Talent. Oregon is working to bring about 80 additional modular homes into the county through Oregon Housing and Community Services, but a specific timeline or location has yet to be announced.