FEMA looks to provide hurricane victims temporary housing


Chris Johnson views destruction at his home on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura moved through the state. Johnson stayed in his home as the storm passed. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Louisiana residents affected by hurricanes Laura and Delta could be eligible for temporary housing under two federally administered programs.

Under the Multifamily Lease and Repair Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency can enter into a temporary contract with the owner of an eligible existing multifamily rental property. FEMA will repair the damaged property and then lease out the vacant units for the length of the contract, generally about 18 months. Once the contract ends, the units will be rented out directly by the property owner.

FEMA spokesman Gerard Hammink said the agency has found roughly 40 potential apartment units in Calcasieu Parish that can potentially take part in the program, the American Press reported Friday.

“The idea with apartments is we’re trying to help a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of housing was lost, so it makes sense to pursue different avenues of getting people housed.”

The other program, FEMA’s Direct Lease Program, allows the agency to lease existing “ready-to-occupy” residential property from qualified management companies, including corporate apartments. Under the lease agreement between FEMA and the property owner or management company, rent will be based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rent. The lease agreement will be for 18 months, with an option to extend.

Hammink said FEMA officials are speaking to “half a dozen property managers” about taking part in the Direct Lease Program. The agency’s also reaching out to management companies in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Grant, Jeff Davis, Rapides and Vernon parishes.

The deadline to sign up for both programs is Dec. 28.

FEMA doesn’t typically roll out these programs, but the lack of available rental housing — especially in Calcasieu Parish — required programs like these to address a severe temporary housing shortage, Hammink said.

He noted more than 3,500 households affected by the hurricanes already have found their own housing solutions. FEMA has not been able to reach roughly 1,100 households, he said.

To register property online for the programs, visit the System for Award Management at beta.sam.gov.

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