Editor’s Note: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., issued the following statement this afternoon in response to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announcement that the online auction of the more than 15,000 FEMA manufactured homes and trailers in Hope, Ark., has been extended two weeks to Friday, Jan. 29. More than 15,000 of these units are currently planned to be sold as one “lot” to the highest bidder and not as individual units. The auction was originally scheduled to end today.

“I am pleased to see that GSA has delayed the auction, but I want to see it canceled so fundamental changes can be made in the way these trailers are sold. To sell 15,000 units all at once is highly irresponsible because it denies Arkansans the opportunity to bid on individual units that are deemed safe and livable and allows the highest bidder to purchase them all for pennies on the dollar.

“Selling 15,000 units as one ‘lot’ to one buyer at what amounts to a few hundred dollars per unit sets up a ‘middle man’ who can then turn around and sell these units to customers at a huge profit. It can also potentially flood the market and threaten many critical jobs in our area. Taxpayers only lose in this scenario and we must explore different options.

“If FEMA and GSA insist on an auction, then I believe we should sell these units as they have in previous auctions, 200 at a time, but sell each individually so that Arkansans would have the opportunity to bid on an individual unit. However, I think we should also consider other options, such as returning to their original purpose as disaster shelter housing and at least explore the possibility of sending as many safe units as we can to the people of Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless from the earthquake earlier this week.