FEMA homes are last resort for temporary housing

Published 10:28 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting people displaced by the April 16 tornadoes into safe temporary housing as quickly as possible is a critical first step to putting disaster survivors on the path to recovery.

Awarding grants to pay rent for a limited time is the quickest way to provide disaster survivors temporary housing in their community. FEMA has given out nearly $3 million in such rental assistance in the two weeks following the April 19 disaster declaration.

“Providing manufactured housing is the option of last resort,” said Mike Bolch, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in North Carolina. “Disaster survivors – even those who lived in mobile homes before the tornadoes – will not be placed in mobile homes provided by FEMA if other options for temporary housing are available.”

FEMA and the state of North Carolina will provide mobile homes and park model manufactured housing for disaster survivors only in counties where the need for temporary housing outstrips the supply of available rentals, Bolch said.

The shortage of rental housing is particularly acute in nine counties: Bertie, Bladen, Greene, Harnett, Hertford, Lee, Robeson, Sampson and Wilson. The more populous counties among the 18 declared counties – for example, Wake and Cumberland – have a wide variety of rental housing options.

The furnished housing units include three-bedroom, one-bathroom mobile homes up to70 feet long and two-bedroom, one-bathroom park models up to 40 feet long. Each unit is equipped with a NOAA weather radio and meets strict specifications for indoor air quality. Some units are designed to be fully accessible according to the guidelines of Americans with Disabilities Act.

If a mobile home or park model can’t be set up on the applicant’s lot, it will be set up on an existing pad in a commercial mobile home park.

“The mobile homes and park models are temporary housing,” said N.C. Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell. “Disaster survivors live in the mobile homes and park models while they work to find permanent housing.”

Those living in the units will have their cases reviewed each month for continued FEMA assistance. Survivors can live in the units for a maximum of 18 months.