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Published by disasterwatchdog
Testimony on Disaster Housing submitted by Disaster Accountability Project to FEMA National Advisory Council for July 29-30, 2009 meeting in Grand Forks, ND.
Testimony on Disaster Housing submitted by Disaster Accountability Project to FEMA National Advisory Council for July 29-30, 2009 meeting in Grand Forks, ND.

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Published by: disasterwatchdog on Aug 28, 2009
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c/o CULI • 35 Elizabeth Street, Room K-202 • Hartford, CT 06105314-761-7631 • info@disasteraccountability.org
 NAC Comment[Docket ID: FEMA–2007–0008]Ben SmilowitzExecutive Director, Disaster Accountability ProjectJuly 20, 2009Docket No. FEMA 2007-0008The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) respectfully submits these comments onDisaster Housing Policy to FEMA for the National Advisory Council Meeting.
National Disaster Housing Joint Task Force
FEMA must make staffing the National Disaster Housing Joint Task Force animmediate priority to bring the National Disaster Housing Strategy (NDHS) intocompliance with 6 U.S.C. §772.
On January 16, 2009 the Bush administration published an updated version of the NDHS.While the 2009 Strategy does more closely follow the instructions given in the PostKatrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) [1] through its annexes, it isnot complete. Also, it is not ready to be implemented. The idealistic and holistic conceptsoutlined in the NDHS rely on a joint housing task force made up of “local, State,nongovernmental and private-sector entities for implementation.” [2] This task force hasnot yet been established and is lacking a permanent chairperson, [3] leaving the samelevel of uncertainty in interim housing that existed during Katrina. The creation andaction of this task force is crucial for needed planning and preparation for future disastersthat lead to the displacement of persons.In his written testimony prepared for the hearing on July 7, 2009 before the U.S. HouseCommittee on Homeland Security, Administrator Fugate wrote that “FEMA convenedorganizational meetings of the National Disaster Housing Task Force.” At thosemeetings, a draft of the Implementation Plan required, in the NDHS, a National Disaster Housing Task Force charter and an organizational chart, among other documents, in order to create the Task Force. From his testimony, it is clear that the Task Force has not beenstaffed. [4]
 In his testimony Administrator Fugate stated that the National Disaster  Housing Joint Task Force would be staffed, but did not indicate that it currently is. What is the timeline for permanent staff?
 Additionally, he indicated that a draft of the Implementation Plan had been written during the organizational meetings. What is the new timeline for the releaseof the final Implementation Plan, given the passing of the six-month deadline in the NDHS? Also, is the draft version available for public comment?
What is the status of the Comprehensive Concept of Operations(CONOPS)? Is it on schedule, as the deadline for completion of this document isOctober 16th 2009?
Interagency Coordination
 It is evident from the response to Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disasters that therealities of post-disaster housing need were not adequately anticipated. Coordination wasseverely lacking amongst federal agencies, as well as with private sector individuals andorganizations that provide multi-family residential housing units. In addition to the problems with trailers, both in supply and location, [5] FEMA failed to take advantage of housing stock offered by other agencies, including the VA, USDA, and HUD, as well asunits offered by the private sector. As a result, residents were housed in trailers, hotels,and cruise ships, further exacerbating the stress felt by many individuals and families. [6]After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA and HUD entered into an InteragencyAgreement (IAA) in July 2006, which created the pilot Disaster Housing AssistanceProgram (DHAP). [7] Again in late September of 2008, FEMA and HUD signed another Interagency Agreement to work together to administer the Disaster Housing AssistanceProgram for Ike (DHAP-Ike). [8] While these agreements are an important start, they donot go far enough to ensure that victims of future disasters will have adequate access toavailable interim and permanent housing stock. These agreements are made on an
ad hoc
  basis, and a permanent standard does not yet exist. [9] FEMA and HUD, in particular,must work together to create a comprehensive system for interim housing and to establisha permanent policy to foster interagency coordination.According to the NDHS, FEMA is supposed to partner with HUD in interim housing, andsupport HUD in permanent housing. [10] In the recent hearing by the U.S. HouseCommittee on Homeland Security on “FEMA Housing: An Examination of CurrentProblems and Innovative Solutions,” two Congressmen, Mark Souder (R-IN) and MikeRogers (R-AL), inquired how long post-disaster housing remained within FEMA’s jurisdiction. In response, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Skinner replied that FEMA would remain at the table for interim and transitional housing.
 In the future, how does FEMA plan on working with HUD to maximizehousing offered by other agencies?
 Has any timeline been established after which housing responsibility will be fully given to HUD?
Encouraging Community Rebuilding and Innovative Solutions to Interim Housing
 FEMA proposed many different types of temporary housing in the months followingHurricane Katrina, including trailers, hotel rooms, and cruise ships. Many Gulf Coastresidents rejected the idea of living on a cruise ship, and instead looked further away for more stable housing options. As the time residents spent away from the Gulf Coast grew,the likelihood that residents would return to their communities decreased, as theyestablished lives elsewhere. By placing hurricane victims in unstable temporary housing,FEMA discouraged efficient rebuilding and resettlement. FEMA also failed to provideexpedited direct rental assistance to residents until late September, further preventingcommunities from returning to normalcy. [11]The NDHS “challenges planners to be creative in seeking innovative solutions. Disaster housing must include a sufficient range of options that are compatible with thecommunity characteristics, including population density, climate, geography, and landavailability. They must be safe, durable, physically accessible, and cost effective.Viability may also hinge on timely availability and sufficient capacity to meet the sizeand diversity of a household, as well as cost effectiveness.”[12]The units currently in use are expensive and inefficient. They emit dangerous chemicals,are difficulty to store efficiently and have very short useful life spans. Since HurricaneKatrina many different options have been proposed as replacements for the mobile andmodular homes currently in use. These options are less expensive and are built withenvironmental and health impacts in mind. These innovative solutions must be evaluatedcritically as a number of these options will likely prove to be a substantial improvementover the current system. One such example is the shipping container style building,created by Housing Emergency Logistics Plan (HELP LLC). The company uses shippingcontainers that have been redesigned to replicate more traditional modular housingmodels. They are different, however, in that they are built sustainably, are extremelyeasy to set up and transport, and large numbers of units can be stored in a small amountof space. [13]
What efforts will FEMA make after a disaster to encourage residents toreturn to their homes rather than resettling elsewhere?
How can FEMA assure more stable forms of interim housing?
Are there any studies to evaluate the usefulness of the alternative interimhousing options proposed at the July 8, 2009 House Homeland Security Committeehearing?
Rental Repair

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