Disaster Housing Recovery Updates – September 10

The following is a review of housing recovery developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the 2017 California wildfires since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 9/4).  NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

Federal Response


  • The House Small Business Committee held a hearing, “Surveying Storms: A Deeper Dive into SBA’s Disaster Response,” on September 5.  James Rivera, associate administrator of the Small Business Administration, reviewed the agency’s performance during the 2017 storm season and answered questions from the committee members.  Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) cited the Office of Inspector General report on the SBA’s disaster response to Hurricane Maria and—among other things—how SBA did not fully anticipate the need for bilingual staff and translation services.  This caused some survivors to experience wait times of over 45 minutes and dropped calls. 


  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new study on FEMA’s response to the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. The study shows that of the 1.1 million households that applied for housing assistance, 6,907 received TSA hotel assistance; 286 applicants received assistance through the Direct Lease or Multifamily Lease Repair programs, manufactured housing units and RVs, or permanent construction repair; and 33,016 received assistance to allow them to remain in their homes. The study acknowledges the challenges associated with FEMA’s decision to shift responsibility for housing recovery to the affected states. The GAO provides report highlights at its website and on a podcast at Watchblog
  • FEMA released a series of videos illustrating the response to Hurricane Irma in Florida. The videos cover a range of topics, including volunteers, mitigation, recovery, and housing.
  • FEMA awarded over $81 million to Harris County Flood Control District to acquire 502 homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The flood-prone homes will be removed, and the land will be maintained as open space to benefit the natural floodplain.

Local Perspectives

  • Texas Housers, an NLIHC state partner and Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition member, released “A Costly and Unequal Burden” – an analysis of the City of Houston’s revisions to its floodplain management code.  The policy brief recommends a three-pronged approach to prioritizing public funding for flood mitigation in low income neighborhoods, including grants to households choosing to rebuild and elevate homes and the creation of a buyout program for households desiring to move out of flood-prone areas.
  • A New York Times article featured stories of low income and minority residents affected by Hurricane Harvey, highlighting the unequal recovery effort, particularly with regard to housing.
  • Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO, wrote an op-ed on a federal judge’s ruling that FEMA can evict thousands of Hurricane Maria survivors still living in hotels or motels. The op-ed was published in the Orland Sentinel on September 5. Read the full op-ed, “'Trump’s Katrina'? For housing, response to Hurricane Maria worse” at: https://bit.ly/2oIFgzC