The largest deployment of travel trailers and manufactured homes in the history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following last year’s assembly line of hurricanes that ripped through Florida continues to provide “temporary housing” for displaced victims.
According to Florida Today, 15,974 units were issued by FEMA to regions throughout the state and 11,742 are still in use.
By comparison, after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, FEMA deployed 3,500 trailers and the last 283 families moved out of them two and a half years later.
Hundreds of Brevard County residents are still living in temporary housing, most of them in travel trailers, looking to the day they can move back into permanent housing.
But they are blocked by obstacles beyond their control: Contractors to repair homes are hard to find, there’s a waiting list for manufactured homes and apartment complexes that used to provide affordable housing are still being repaired.
The housing crisis looms larger as the next hurricane season approaches, housing officials say, and they’re doing what they can to get everyone into permanent housing – but that may take two years.
“We have such a massive problem, it’s taking all of us to put our heads together to find a solution,” said Chenita Joyner, Brevard’s assistant director of Housing and Human Services.
She estimated there are 400 to 500 people who need some sort of subsidy assistance to get back into permanent housing. “We’ll be able to help them all; it will just take some time,” Joyner said.
Just six weeks from the start of the next hurricane season, nearly 700 of the 980 temporary trailers issued by FEMA in Brevard County are still occupied, said Bob Lay, the county’s emergency management director.
Their occupants are people whose houses, mobile homes and apartments were destroyed.
Normally after a disaster, people are out of temporary housing in seven to eight months. Lay’s concern is how long people have been forced to live in the trailers – and what could happen should there be another hurricane.
“As long as they’re in temporary trailers and something happens like a hurricane, they’re going to have to evacuate that and go to a shelter or go somewhere,” he said.
FEMA usually gives people 18 months from the declared state of emergency to find new housing. A person living in a travel trailer issued after Hurricane Charley will have until next March to find a new home.
But FEMA officials have said they may issue extensions.