Modular, boxlike homes with add-on porches, changing roof designs and floorplans, and – most importantly – quick assembly.
According to an Associated Press report, that’s the idea behind grant proposals Louisiana submitted to federal officials to replace the cramped quarters of travel trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the victims of future disasters.
The nation’s five Gulf Coast states are competing for a pool of $400 million to test and build alternative housing for hurricane victims, a pilot program FEMA hopes can become a model for how to provide fast, temporary or semipermanent housing after the next tornado in Nebraska, earthquake in Hawaii or hurricane in Louisiana.
“Louisiana wants housing for disaster victims. FEMA wants to look at options for future disasters,” said Jeff Hebert, the Louisiana Recovery Authority’s deputy director of planning who worked on the state’s alternative housing grant proposal.
Thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi residents – in some cases families of as many as five people – are living in the tiny quarters of the travel trailers and mobile homes FEMA provided as temporary shelter. The trailers are piled into parks and are scattered around front yards in neighborhoods that were flooded or obliterated when Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005.
The trailers have cost FEMA hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and install.
Hurricane victims and local, state and federal officials have complained the dollars could be more wisely spent on more adaptable, less temporary housing that replaces the tiny trailers with more livable starter homes that disaster victims could expand, an idea called Katrina cottages. Congress earmarked $400 million to FEMA to create the Katrina cottage pilot program.
“This Gulf Coast pilot will have national applicability, as it will help FEMA consider new ways to house people quickly and efficiently for future disasters,” FEMA Director David Paulison said in a statement.
The deadline to submit proposals to FEMA was last Friday (Oct. 20). The federal agency will decide which proposals get grant money by the end of November, though environmental impact studies could delay the fund disbursement by another month or more, said Michael Widomski, a FEMA spokesman.
The Louisiana Recovery Authority, working with national experts on disaster response and housing, weeded through 45 proposals submitted by nonprofit organizations and housing companies. The authority submitted six of those ideas to FEMA in the hopes of capturing some alternative housing dollars and moving Katrina and Hurricane Rita victims out of FEMA trailers.
The state would administer the dollars and housing programs if it received any grant awards.
Priority for the housing in Louisiana would be given to those deemed critical to the state’s hurricane recovery efforts: emergency responders, construction workers, teachers and education officials, health care employees and hotel workers and others in the hospitality industry.
The homes in five of the six proposals that make up Louisiana’s application are similar: boxy houses that can be transported easily and come ready to be assembled speedily, with porches, columns and garages that can be added to fit the design of homes in a neighborhood.
“You just piece them together,” Hebert said.