Disaster victims can now find a safe haven in low-income housing

Housing, otherwise set aside for those who meet certain income requirements, can now be used by displaced individuals for temporary disaster relief

Housing units normally set aside for low-income residents can now be used to house persons displaced by Hurricanes Florence and Michael and other disasters without regard to their incomes.

Under special — but temporary — relief granted this week, the Internal Revenue Service has authorized owners and operators of low-income housing projects and houses anywhere in the United States and its territories to offer temporary emergency housing to individuals and families who lost their principal residence because of a major disaster.

This special relief authorizes owners and operators to disregard the income limits, transience rules and certain other restrictions that normally apply to low-income housing units when providing temporary emergency housing to displaced individuals.

The county or other local jurisdiction where people were dislodged must be one designated for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Association. Currently, this includes parts of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, though FEMA may add other locations in the future.

Upon approval, emergency housing can be provided for up to a year after the close of the month in which the major disaster was declared by the president.

Relief automatically applies as soon as the president declares a major disaster and FEMA designates any locality for individual or public assistance. For that reason, individuals affected by some other recent major disasters may also qualify for emergency housing relief. For a list of recent disasters, see the disaster relief pages.

Owners and operators of low-income housing projects are not required to offer their units as temporary housing. The special rules that now apply for those who do are detailed in Revenue Procedure 2014-49 and Revenue Procedure 2014-50, both of which can be found on the IRS website.

Lew Sichelman’s weekly column, “The Housing Scene,” is syndicated to newspapers throughout the country.