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The federal government agreed Thursday (Feb. 12) to give victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, who are still living in federally supplied trailers or staying at hotels or motels, 60 more days to find more permanent lodging.
The Associated Press reported that nearly 6,870 travel trailers and mobile homes remain in four states more than three years after the storms – mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi. Most of the units are said to be on private sites, often in front of houses people are trying to rebuild.
Another 318 households are in hotels or motels, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Amy Kudwa.
The aid program had been set to expire March 1. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the states can request an extension to May 1.
“We understand the importance of helping states smoothly transition families into a better, long-term living environment,” she said in a statement.
What happens after May 1 – whether, for example, there will be a firmer crackdown on the removal of trailers – isn’t immediately clear. A fact sheet released by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is giving mobile home residents the option to buy their current unit.
FEMA has been routinely visiting those in trailers and mobile homes to gauge residents’ progress in fixing up homes or finding a longer-term housing option.
Some municipalities have been enforcing local bans on federally supplied trailers and mobile homes, hoping to encourage more investment in, and restore a greater sense of normalcy to, recovering neighborhoods.
In New Orleans, where Mayor Ray Nagin hoped to be rid of all trailers by the third anniversary of Katrina, last Aug. 29, officials have tried to strike a balance between those desires and a sensitivity to those making a good-faith effort to rebuild their houses.
About 1,300 trailers and mobile homes still remain in New Orleans, FEMA statistics show.