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Rent to increase on FEMA trailers for Louisianans impacted by Hurricane Ida; here's what to know

FEMA trailer in Lafourche Parish
Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
FEMA trailer in Lafourche Parish

Two years after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana’s coast, the catastrophic damage it caused to homes and infrastructure remains unrepaired in many parts of southeast Louisiana.

Despite the slow progress, especially when it comes to home repairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently notified residents that it will soon dramatically increase the cost of the temporary housing the agency has provided to those displaced by the storm.

Starting June 1, thousands of households will see their rent jump significantly for the FEMA trailers — which were also rolled out slower than anticipated after Ida — while they still wait for permanent housing. The housing assistance was originally slated to last just 18 months from when Ida made landfall, expiring at the end of February, but was extended in response to a request from the state. Now that extension is expiring.

Here’s what residents need to know ahead of the June 1 change.

How much is rent increasing for FEMA temporary housing?

The increased rent will be based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Market Rate. A single-bedroom trailer will cost $780 per month, a two-bedroom will be $981, a three-bedroom will be $1,266 and a four-bedroom will be $1,428. This will impact about 2,600 households who are still in the program.

The rate hike is a considerable jump from what residents have been paying — $50 a month since March when, per FEMA policy, the fair market rate was supposed to kick in.

However, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness was successful in their appeal to delay the rate hike until June and extend the FEMA program through Aug. 29. Before March, residents were able to stay in the units for free as families worked on other long-term housing solutions.

A GOSHEP spokesperson said the program could be extended again past the Aug. 29 date if parishes want to continue the FEMA program.

What happens to those unable to afford the new rates?

Individual families can appeal the rent increases due to financial hardship, according to the press release. Households were notified by mail on May 1 and have 60 days after receiving the notice to appeal.

“The appeal will be based on the family’s income-to-debt ratio, verified by supporting documents regarding expenses and income of the household,” the FEMA press release said.

What is the Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program, and what is happening to it?

The Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program is a separate, state-run program that was designed to meet temporary housing needs after Hurricane Ida due to a slow rollout of FEMA’s temporary trailers.

This program is also ending soon, on May 31, and families have been told to vacate the temporary housing by then. GOSHEP spokesperson Mike Steele said that each household has had case managers assigned to help them find long-term housing options during their time in the program.

“The most important thing right now is to make sure they are in touch with their case manager to update where they are at and working to a solution,” Steele said.

What resources are available to homeowners in these temporary housing programs?

Families in both the state sheltering and FEMA program can also access case managers through the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program.

Restore Louisiana is a state program that provides homeowners impacted by the hurricane grant funding to cover construction costs to fix their homes. Louisiana received $3.1 billion in federal appropriations for all eligible 2020–21 disaster events, and Restore Louisiana is one of the programs through which those funds are being disbursed.

To help more homeowners qualify for the Restore Louisiana program, Gov. John Bel Edwards recently announced that the state is lowering the FEMA-determined home damage threshold to $3,000 and raising the maximum amount of insurance received by residents from the disaster to $50,000.

What about free case management help for renters?

The state also provides the Louisiana Disaster Case Management Program to help support anyone who lived in any of the 25 parishes that were under the major federal disaster declaration after Hurricane Ida.

This includes Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.

The program helps residents assess financial issues and access health care, legal services, application assistance for insurance and housing, and services to help elderly residents continue living independently.

The state also suggests people contact the Louisiana Housing Corporation at (888) 454-2001 for rental assistance.

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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