Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spending for more than 96,000 travel trailers and mobile homes totals more than $1 billion, and the buying of temporary dwellings for Katrina evacuees is not finished, according to an Associated Press report.
“We still have the ones to be awarded yet,” FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney said Thursday (Sept. 22).
He declined to predict how many temporary residences would be ordered and said unit costs were not yet available.
Kinerney said FEMA, as of Thursday, awarded bids for companies to deliver more than 86,000 travel trailers, 11,000 mobile homes and more than 1,700 modular housing units.
While manufacturers of the housing are getting a lift, an evacuee in a FEMA trailer at Patterson, La., said officials of the agency put her family and others displaced by Katrina in a park and haven’t been back for a week.
Elizabeth Burregi, 37, her disabled husband, Victor, 41, and their three young children are living in a FEMA-provided travel trailer. Burregi said she was a lifelong resident in Jefferson Parish, La., before Katrina destroyed their mobile home.
Burregi said she has a truck and members of a church have helped her buy gas to help other residents of the FEMA park get groceries and run other errands.
“FEMA hasn’t even been out here,” she said.
Kinerney said FEMA officials were negotiating lease agreements with farmers and other owners of “big tract” properties to put evacuees in communities of trailers and mobile homes.
“I don’t know there is a maximum number together,” he said. “People are under stress obviously.”
Kinerney said the temporary housing arrangements are a “darn sight better than living on the street.”
While financial analysts predict Katrina’s economic impact will be staggering, some mobile home and trailer builders are preparing for robust sales.
The nation’s RV manufacturing industry – largely centralized in northern Indiana – expects to send nearly half of the units they build this year to dealers and customers in the hard-hit storm areas.
Kean MacOwen, co-founder and vice president of Adventure Manufacturing in Peru, Ind., predicted net revenue for his RV company will be up 10% this year, because of Katrina-related sales.
Richard Florea, president of Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Mfg. Inc., said the RV manufacturer has sent “thousands” of units to dealers in the South. The company plans to hire another 250 workers to compensate for increased demand for some models.
Dutchmen employees are filling trailers with care packages for refugees that include tooth brushes, toiletries and shaving gel.
Florea said the increase is sales is bittersweet.
“There’s no doubt our industry as a whole will benefit from this,” Florea said. “We have a discretionary product and a luxury product, and now for thousands and thousands of people, it’s a must-have necessary product. That takes on new meanings, when it’s someone’s home.”