The National Multi Housing Council and National Apartment Association issued a statement to express opposition to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s purchase of thousands of mobile homes that were intended to house hurricane evacuees but have remained unused.

Jim Arbury, senior vice president of government affairs for the two groups, which represent developers and operators of apartment communities, said in the statement that FEMA spent about $1 billion on trailers that “are not being used because FEMA’s own regulations do not allow them in flood plains. It’s heartbreaking.”

He added, “The $1 billion wasted on those unoccupied trailers that sit in the Gulf Coast mud would shelter 200,000 evacuee families in an apartment for six months. Guaranteed rental vouchers to evacuees would open up remaining vacant apartments in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. It would also prevent the unfortunate eviction of evacuees who cannot pay their rent under the flawed system of aid that currently exists.”

The New York Times reported that about half of the requests for manufactured housing have not yet been filled – now several months after Hurricane Katrina. About 60 percent of the 90,000 requests by hurricane evacuees for manufactured housing have not been met, and about 34,560 of 40,000 requests in Mississippi have not been met, according to the report.

The entire trailer program cost an estimated $4 billion, the report also states.

Arbury said in the statement, “We are outraged, to be frank. Since one week after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and significant parts of the Gulf Coast, we have known that this would be a long-term emergency. It was clear that many evacuees would be displaced for 12 months and longer.

“Apartment owners did everything possible to open their doors to evacuees. In some cases free housing was made available to the neediest, and many property owners offered significant rent discounts, waived security deposits and application fees, and offered flexible lease terms. But it appeared that … FEMA worked against our efforts, thus closing the doors to evacuees.”

The apartment groups have asked FEMA to prepare a longer-term rental housing voucher system to be in place by March 1 “that works for all remaining evacuees.”

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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