Updates on Hurricane Housing Recovery

Disaster RecoveryThe following is a review of developments related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria housing recovery since last week’s Memo to Members and Partners (for the article in last week’s Memo, see 9/18). NLIHC has created a Hurricane Housing Recovery email distribution list and sends out multiple updates each week. NLIHC also posts this information at our On the Home Front blog.

Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico

A major disaster declaration was approved by President Trump making federal disaster assistance available to affected individuals in 54 municipalities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a Hurricane Maria disaster recovery page (DR-4339). Prior to Hurricane Maria’s landing, the president declared that an emergency existed for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

U.S. Virgin Islands

A major disaster declaration was approved by President Trump making federal disaster assistance available to affected individuals on the island of St. Croix. FEMA established a Hurricane Maria disaster recovery page (DR-4340). Prior to Hurricane Maria’s landing, the president declared that an emergency existed for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hurricane Irma



By the Numbers:  (As of Friday morning, September 22)

  • 103,703 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $102,461,720 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $54,743,864  Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $47,717,856 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $182,550,843 Public Assistance approved

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

Amendments Number 6 and Number 7 were made to the initial disaster declaration, enabling renters, homeowners, and businesses in 11 more counties to apply for FEMA Individual Assistance (IA), bringing the total to 48 counties. Amendment Number 9 makes 21 more counties eligible for Categories C through G of Public Assistance (PA). These counties were previously eligible for Categories A and B of PA and for Individual Assistance (IA). Amendment Number 8 names Willie Nunn as the Federal Coordinating Officer, replacing Justó Hernández.

Disaster Recovery Centers were opened in St. Augustine, Boynton Beach, Riverview, and Fort Myers. FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), volunteer groups, and other agencies are at the centers to answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses. They can also help survivors apply for federal disaster assistance. Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) crews are canvassing many affected areas and are able to register people for FEMA assistance, if needed. When residents require further assistance, the teams may refer them to a disaster recovery center. It is not necessary to visit a center to register for and receive federal disaster assistance. If possible, survivors should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Amendment Number 3 to the initial disaster declaration adds permanent work under Categories C-G of the Public Assistance (PA) program for the three islands declared disaster areas - St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas. Those islands were previously approved for PA under Categories A and B (debris removal and emergency protective measures), including direct federal assistance.

Puerto Rico

Amendment Number 2 to the initial disaster declaration makes 15 more municipalities eligible for Public Assistance (PA), bringing the total to 19.


On September 15, the president raised Georgia’s status from an emergency to a formally declared disaster. FEMA has established a Georgia Hurricane Irma disaster page (DR-4338). The initial disaster declaration made households in Camden, Chatham, and Glynn counties eligible for Individual Assistance (IA) and all 159 counties eligible for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance (PA) program. All areas of the state are eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Amendment Number 1 adds households in Liberty and McIntosh counties as eligible for Individual Assistance. Teams made up of FEMA disaster specialists are working in those counties to give residents an opportunity to register for disaster assistance. They are also working to identify and address immediate and emerging needs.


HUD issued a Situation Report on September 20 (prior to Hurricane Maria hitting).  Highlights of the report include:

  • Numbers of Public Housing and HUD-assisted Multifamily Housing properties in the impacted areas:
    • Public Housing: Florida has 214 properties and the Virgin Islands 191 properties, with none in Puerto Rico
    • Multifamily Housing: Florida has 862 properties with 44,000 assisted units, the Virgin Islands has two properties with 52 units, Puerto Rico has three properties with 222 units, and Georgia has 741 properties with 35,967 units.
  • Local news in St. Thomas reported Monday that all residents remaining in the Tutu Highrise Apartments were being relocated to shelters in advance of Hurricane Maria.
  • After a FEMA Joint Field Office (JFO) is set up in Orlando or Tampa, additional HUD staff, including Jerrie Magruder who will lead the JFO for HUD, will join the Florida team.
  • A Mission Assignment (MA) with FEMA was executed for the Housing Recovery Support Function (RSF) in Florida. FEMA requested HUD’s presence on-site at their Interim Operating Facility (IOF) in Tallahassee for the Housing RSF. The initial team has been identified for this work, and their deployment is being scheduled.
  • HUD examined American Housing Survey estimates about market housing and insurance for four Florida metro areas - Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. Notable are the number of homes, particularly those that do not have a mortgage, estimated not to have homeowner’s insurance. Renters are at particular risk, with dramatically more not having insurance than having insurance. Estimates for manufactured homes are presented separately. Details are in a chart on page 3 of the report.
  • In the Virgin Islands prior to Hurricane Maria, HUD indicated that displaced public housing families receiving tenant protection vouchers from the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) would need to be able to work with housing authority staff for in-person program briefings. Given the post-Irma conditions in the Virgin Islands, HUD indicated that it might make more sense to relocate families to shelters in San Juan. The state voucher agency in Puerto Rico indicated its willingness to help, but HUD wondered whether transportation to Puerto Rico was available and whether there would be shelter space in Puerto Rico for the displaced families, particularly now in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s destruction.
  • VIHA has not reached the approximately 1,300 existing voucher families in their program, but will continue their efforts. Given funding restrictions, VIHA cannot use public housing funds to assist existing voucher holders with relocation if these families need to move either on or off the island.
  • PIH was concerned that families with vouchers will not find suitable private rentals and will not have a way to leave the island in the near term if they want to use their vouchers on the mainland.


In a media release on September 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that households who may not normally be eligible under the regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules may qualify for Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) - if their income is under the disaster limits and they have qualifying disaster-related expenses. D-SNAP-eligible households in the affected areas will receive two months of benefits, equivalent to the maximum benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size.

The D-SNAP announcement was the latest in an ongoing series of USDA actions to help Florida cope with the storm and its aftermath that also include the early release of September benefits to all current SNAP participants prior to the storm’s impact, a waiver to allow SNAP participants to buy hot foods and hot food products with their benefits at authorized SNAP retailers statewide through September 30, mass replacement of 40% of household SNAP benefits to current participants in 52 counties, and free school meals for children attending hurricane-affected schools through the National School Lunch Program through October 20. 

Details about Florida’s D-SNAP program, also known as “Food for Florida,” will be at the Food for Florida website.

Local Perspectives

Residents of Estate Tutu Apartments, a public housing development on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, are being relocated because the building has suffered severe damage. Of the 285 families living there, 160 are in shelters, while others are still living in the damaged building. While finding local housing is preferred, many residents may have to move.

In Miami, at least 80 residents of a housing development subsidized by HUD’s Multifamily Project-Based Section 8 program have spent nine days outside the building, suffering through heat and rain. Many of the residents have serious health conditions. The building was deemed unfit for living, but the development company that purchased the building has yet to relocate them to hotels, as they have for other residents, or to propose a long term solution.

The Collier County Housing Authority is opening temporary housing in Immokalee, FL for up to 176 people displaced by Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma destroyed many of the trailers and mobile homes that comprised the limited amount of affordable housing in the Florida Keys. Low income residents now worry that developers will use the hurricane’s destruction as an opportunity to buy the trailer parks’ land for luxury apartments, forcing residents to leave the islands.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued new emergency rules that require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to have backup power systems. A group representing nursing homes, utilities, generator suppliers, emergency managers, and government officials will discuss the implementation of the rules.

Hurricane Harvey

By the Numbers (As of Friday morning, September 22)

  • 225,633 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $419,108,444 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*                              
  • $283,144,071 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $135,964,373 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

FEMA reported that, as of September 17, $1.09 billion in federal funds had been provided directly to residents to aid in personal recovery. This included:

  • $333 million in FEMA grants for housing assistance, including emergency home repairs, replacement, and rental assistance.
  • $146 million in FEMA grants to replace essential personal property and to help with medical, dental, legal, and other disaster-related expenses.
  • $347 million paid to National Flood Insurance Program policy holders as advance payments. 
  • $265 million in Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses.

In addition, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program approved $181 million for local and state agencies to reimburse them for the cost of debris removal and emergency response. FEMA also made $516 million in mission assignments to more than two dozen federal agencies.

Amendment Number 8 to the initial disaster declaration authorizes federal funds for all categories of Public Assistance (PA) at a 90% federal cost-share, except for assistance previously approved at 100%. Amendment Number 4 on September 2 limited the 90% federal cost-share to debris removal and direct federal assistance. Amendment Number 9 made Burleson, Grimes, Madison, and Washington Counties eligible for Public Assistance (PA). In addition, Austin, Bastrop, and Lee Counties are now eligible for PA Categories C-G; they were already designated for debris removal and emergency protective measures under Categories A and B.

Disaster Recovery Centers were opened in 15 additional locations: Port Aranas and League City, Port Arthur, Dickinson, Bay City, Brookshire, Houston (at the Church Without Walls), and Orange; Humble, Smithville, and another in Houston (St. John Vianney Catholic Church); and Jasper, Conroe, Sour Lake, and Pasadena.

A FEMA Fact Sheet for HUD-Assisted Households indicates that people displaced from their HUD-assisted homes in one of the 39 designated disaster counties should register with FEMA. This advice applies to households who were living in public housing, private homes with vouchers, or private homes assisted with project-based rental assistance. Displaced households may be eligible for temporary assistance to pay for a place to live until they return to HUD-assisted homes. They may also be eligible for grants to replace essential possessions like clothing and household items, and to cover medical, dental, and burial expenses.

A FEMA Fact Sheet explains that Other Needs Assistance (ONA) grants are funded on a cost-share basis by FEMA and the State of Texas to assist Hurricane Harvey survivors. These grants can be used to repair or replace damaged personal property or to pay for disaster‐related necessary expenses and to cover other serious needs. The state provides these grants to repair or pay for:

  • Disaster‐related medical or dental costs.
  • Disaster‐related funeral and burial costs.
  • Clothing, household items, tools required for work, and necessary educational materials.
  • Fuels for primary heat source.
  • Disaster‐specified clean‐up items.
  • A vehicle damaged by the disaster.
  • Moving and storage expenses related to the disaster to avoid additional disaster damage while disaster‐related repairs are being made to the home.
  • Other necessary expenses or serious needs as determined by the State and FEMA.

A FEMA Fact Sheet explains that Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) is available for households with immediate or serious needs because they are displaced from their homes. CNA is available in all 39 counties designated as disaster areas. Critical needs are life-saving and life-sustaining items including, but not limited to: water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, consumable medical supplies, durable medical equipment, personal hygiene items and fuel for transportation. To be eligible for CNA a survivor must complete a registration with FEMA.

A FEMA Fact Sheet explains that Clean and Removal Assistance (CRA) is available for homeowners with disaster-related real property damage who do not qualify for Home Repair Assistance because the damage did not render the home uninhabitable. This assistance is intended to prevent additional loss and address potential health and safety concerns and reduce contamination from floodwater. CRA is awarded as a one-time payment per household. This amount represents the average cost of cleaning, sanitizing, and removing carpet in a flooded dwelling in the designated area.

A FEMA Fact Sheet recommends registering with FEMA even if a household is covered by insurance or has registered with other agencies. There are situations in which insured households might still be eligible for FEMA assistance.

A FEMA Fact Sheet explains Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC). Texas residents who have sustained property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey flooding, who are insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and who are located in a special flood hazard area may be eligible to receive up to an additional $30,000. These funds are to help bring homes into compliance with communities’ floodplain management requirements.

Local Perspectives

Some residents of Houston public housing were initially informed they needed to pay rent for flooded, uninhabitable units. A HUD spokesperson has clarified that this was not the case, and the Houston Housing Authority is working to reimburse any tenants who paid rent for damaged units.

Low income residents of Houston are unable to leave damaged units as rental prices increase in Houston. While some report landlords abusing their power to take advantage of price increases, the majority of landlords are doing their best to accommodate tenants.

Officials are struggling to house the tens of thousands of Texans who are unable to return to their homes. Shelters and hotels remain full, and while FEMA and volunteers are working to repair homes quickly, the process will be slow and challenging. FEMA may begin to bring in trailers as a temporary option.

While flooding significantly impacted white, middle, and upper class communities in Houston, overall, households earning under $25,000 make up the largest group affected. About half of all affected units were renter-occupied, whereas about 38% of the units were owner-occupied.

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that they will take a client statement as a form of ID when applying for D-SNAP. Because many Texans have lost important documents, this practice will help more families purchase food.

Federal and State Bank Regulators

The federal bank regulators - the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - and state bank regulators have issued guidance to financial institutions about assisting those affected by the hurricanes and about how banks can get Community Reinvestment Act credit for their efforts.