The new version of FEMA trailers may be available in hues of rose and peach, include cozy front porches and full-size kitchen cabinets, but the cosmetic touches can’t mask a question: Are there enough to dispatch to Florida in the event of a major hurricane?
FEMA said it has ordered ”hundreds” of the new trailers, which are supposed to be available by June 1. FEMA Maj. Phil May, who oversees the region that includes Florida, said in an interview that the agency can order thousands more as needed, according to the Miami Herald.
”We have sufficient travel trailers in place to meet the need if sites are available,” May said.
But congressional leaders on a subcommittee that oversees FEMA have questioned whether the emergency agency has enough manufactured homes to dispatch to Florida or other vulnerable states during the six-month hurricane season starting June 1.
During a May 1 hearing in Miami, the co-chairwoman of the subcommittee, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., demanded a count of trailers within 30 days.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican who represents Miami and serves on the subcommittee, said he fears FEMA lacks an adequate housing supply.
”I don’t think we are where we need to be in a lot of areas, including housing,” Diaz-Balart said in an interview. ”I’m not at this stage confident that we have enough.”
As the last resort in times of disaster, FEMA must be ready, he said.
”There is a stockpile. The question is, Is it enough for a big storm in a populated place such as south Florida?”
The new manufactured homes are much snazzier than basic trailers.
At costs between $45,000 and $75,000 apiece, the homes range in size from about 300 square feet to 660 square feet.
”You are walking into something that feels like a conventional house. It’s not a cramped trailer,” said Matt Riley, secretary treasurer of Lexington Homes Inc., one of the companies that can make homes in colors such as sky blue and mint green. ”It looks like a fishing cottage.”
Specifications of many of the new models state that they can withstand winds of at least 120 mph.
FEMA officials say they also have access to thousands of trailers, including older versions that still pass air quality tests. After FEMA discovered trailers used after Hurricane Katrina tested high for formaldehyde, the agency set contracts to order new, safer homes.
Yet FEMA officials could not say exactly how many older units are still usable, beyond putting the figure at ”several thousand.”
At a news conference Tuesday, newly appointed FEMA director Craig Fugate, Florida’s former top emergency management director, said FEMA would consider placing temporary homes in residents’ yards or relocating residents should a major hurricane wipe out a huge chunk of housing stock.
”If you re-create the Great Miami Hurricane that hit Florida back in 1926, we could be talking as many as half a million houses,” Fugate said. ”We may be faced with the prospect that there is no immediate solution to bring enough housing into a geographical area in the time frame that would allow people to continue what they were doing.”
FEMA identifies travel trailers and mobile homes as post-disaster housing of last resort after other options, such as apartments, have been exhausted.
Both Broward and Miami-Dade counties have identified a handful of parks that could be used for trailers, including C.B. Smith in Pembroke Pines and Harris Field in Homestead. Other options include county-owned land or possibly vacant commercial parcels.