The federal government is planning temporary housing for as many as 300,000 families in the Gulf Coast region – the bulk of which will be travel trailers and mobile homes in Louisiana.
According to a report in The Advocate, Baton Rouge, 6,000 of those trailers are already in the state and hundreds more are arriving every day, said Brad Gair, FEMA housing area commander. More than 100,000 travel trailers and mobile homes have been ordered so far, he said.
It might take several months to get a handle on how many people need temporary housing, where it should be and for how long it needs to be available, he said.
Gair said he suspects the agency will continue to house people for three to five years in Louisiana as New Orleans and surrounding communities are rebuilt. The agency also is looking to all available hotels and apartment complexes to provide temporary housing.
One of the trailer communities will be on state-owned land in Baker. On Monday, contractors were gearing up to turn a 60-acre pasture into a small town of 550 to 600 trailers.
FEMA also is looking to build several other travel trailer parks in the state.
Baker Mayor Harold Rideau said the project has the potential to bring another 2,000 residents into a city that had a population of about 13,500 before Hurricane Katrina.
Rideau said Baker is trying to help displaced evacuees find their own temporary homes by charging only about half of the normal deposits for water, sewer, natural gas and other services.
“We had about $98,000 in bad debt, so we can’t waive the deposits completely, but we are trying to help people out,” Rideau said.
Evacuees who move into the travel trailer park won’t have to worry about deposits. Plans call for the travel trailer park to have a single water meter and its own sewage treatment facilities.
“Their water bill is going to be paid by FEMA. I think FEMA’s good for it,” Rideau said.
FEMA’s Gair said the task of housing evacuees across the Gulf region is monumental.
“It may not be on the scale of building the pyramids, but this is close,” Gair said. “It is a huge challenge.”
Two Carnival cruise ships deployed to Galveston are being redirected to New Orleans to house employees essential to the disaster recovery effort.
Gair said sites have been identified so far to house up to 15,000 travel trailers or mobile homes. The new communities would house up to 25,000 people, with some as small as 5,000 people, he said.
The traditional way for families to register for temporary housing is by contacting the agency at (800) 621-FEMA.
But Gair said FEMA is working with shelters and parish governments to streamline the process and move people into housing quickly even if their paperwork isn’t complete.
He said FEMA is working with state parks to locate RV sites, but any size parcels could be used.
“We’re looking at virtually any parcel we can get our hands on,” Gair said.
He said he had no cost estimate. “This is going to be expensive – clearly the most expensive housing mission we’ve ever been involved in,” Gair said.