Thursday, April 09, 2009

Another Year, Another Deadline

Last year around this time, I was blogging quite a bit about a poorly conceived policy that proposed to evict residents of FEMA trailers.

Councilor Stacy Head was out front pushing these evictions even though the continued use and sometimes abuse of formaldehyde-laden FEMA trailers had almost everything to do with the lack of affordable housing and almost nothing to do with people being too lazy to fix their homes. A decent compromise was reached when Cynthia Hedge-Morrell proposed a compromise that exempted the more heavily storm-damaged Districts D and E from that deadline.

FEMA ultimately extended that deadline as well - to the end of February and then again to May 1st. That's this May 1st. But as the article behind that link indicated way back in February, it was already likely that the enforcement of the May 1st deadline would result in evictions of a few thousand of our neighbors.

May 1st is now just a week or so away.

The truth is that people need to get out of these trailers. Many of them have dangerous levels of formaldehyde. But a cancerous trailer is better than the street.

FEMA caseworkers were put out there to inform people of the upcoming deadline but I'm not sure what kind of actual assistance they were able to provide.

I'm not an expert on these programs but I think that if you opted into the trailer program, it means you weren't involved with DHAP (Disaster Housing Assistance Program) or with other housing choice vouchers to get an apartment. The waiting list for Section 8 assistance is endless, and there's no cutting the line.

If I were to venture an educated guess, I'd say that the vast majority of people still inhabiting FEMA trailers are not just being lazy about home renovations or finding their own alternative housing. Rather, I imagine a huge percentage of current trailer inhabitants are senior citizens on fixed incomes. Another chunk of people have been victims of contractor fraud and waiting on litigation or otherwise do not have money to get their house up to livable standards.

Now, ideally, none of this would matter. The city would have a decent enough affordable housing supply that the thousand or so senior citizens could be given rental vouchers or whatever else and that would be the end of those awful trailers. But HANO only today announced a plan to begin renovations that should have been immediate priorities three years ago.

The rental market isn't nearly as bad as it was twelve months ago, but that doesn't indicate that a significant amount of affordable or subsidized housing has suddenly become available. Especially when we're talking about folks living purely off of their social security checks or families struggling with medical issues, etc.

FEMA will likely have to extend it's deadline once again as a result. Unless it's suddenly acceptable to throw senior citizens onto the streets. I hope that's not the case.

Senator Landrieu and Congressman Cao need to step up and make sure that nobody falls through the cracks.


mominem said...

In my contacts with FEMA they are not going to extend it again.

It is also inaccurate to say that all trailers have unacceptable levels of formaldehyde. Many never did and many that once did likely now do not.

E said...

I said "many of them" but it's a tangential point...

If FEMA's not going to extend the deadline what is going to happen to the evicted residents?