Victims of the 2004 hurricanes still living in temporary trailers will have to start paying rent May 1 and find somewhere else to live by late September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said.
The Associated Press reported that last week’s announcement affects more than 4,000 Florida families left homeless by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Rent will be based on location, resident’s income and other factors.
In Punta Gorda, where 260 families still live in a vast FEMA park next to the Charlotte County jail, the maximum rate for a two-bedroom trailer is $668 per month. More than 500 families left homeless by Charley in August 2004 still reside in FEMA-issued travel trailers and mobile homes throughout Charlotte County.
Some Charlotte hurricane victims said they won’t be able to afford the rent and fear that they will be forced into homelessness.
FEMA is charging rent because federal law allows the agency to provide free trailers for up to 18 months after a disaster, spokesman Jim Homstad said. The terms of the agreement with residents requires them to look for other housing, he said.
FEMA also said that the agency may use the same tailored-rent system in Louisiana and Mississippi. The federal government is offering free housing to Hurricane Katrina victims until February 2007; Rita victims have until March 2007.
There also are more than 1,700 families in trailers because of last year’s Hurricane Wilma. Those families won’t have to pay rent for another year.