FEMA approves rent reduction for mobile housing units

Halen Doughty

Governor John Bel Edwards announced that FEMA approved his request to ease the financial burden on flood survivors living in FEMA trailers. Beginning March 1, rent will be reduced to $50 a month. That reduced rate will last through the new deadline of May 14. But the Governor noted the state intends to request additional extensions as needed.

“This is welcome news for our citizens who are still very much in the recovery process and who until today, were faced with the difficult choice of having to pay rent for their temporary housing and the mortgage on their flood damaged homes,” said Edwards. “I am grateful to FEMA officials for recognizing the needs of our people and for working with us to develop a solution. This is a substantial rent reduction that will remain in place until the program ends as long as survivors are making progress toward finding permanent housing.”

FEMA announced last year that it would begin charging flood victims market rental rates of nearly $1,000. Since then, Edwards has requested multiple waivers from the federal agency.

“We appreciate the fact FEMA recognized the charging of fair market rent could cause additional hardship on many of our families,” said Jim Waskom, head of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). “We are glad they agreed to reduce the rent for flood survivors, allowing families more time to complete their home repairs. We will continue working with survivors on a case by case basis to help them reach more permanent housing solutions.”

Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa announced his opposition to FEMA's plan to charge rent in January. Matassa and the Ascension Parish Council called on the agency to explain its rationale for imposing such a steep burden on flood victims.

“The people of Ascension Parish are hurting, and I will fight like hell to make sure that they are protected from Washington bureaucratic games,” said President Matassa. “FEMA was slow to get our residents into temporary housing, and our people have the right to some normalcy as they work to get back in their homes.”

More than 1,700 flood victims are still living in FEMA trailers. Of those, 1,533 are homeowners and 180 are renters. Many homeowners are enrolled in the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program as they attempt to rebuild and get back into their homes. Edwards said the program is moving faster than any other housing recovery program in the country.

The Governor's Rehousing Panel led by GOHSEP has begun meeting with FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer, John Long, to develop solutions that will help move survivors out of temporary housing united and into permanent housing.

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