Housing

53,000 people made homeless by Hurricane Harvey: what happens next?

Trailers and pre-fabricated homes considered by emergency officials, as tens of thousands are left living in hotel rooms in the wake of the Texas floods

The devastation of Hurricane Harvey left thousands of families homeless.

Ten days on from Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the southern coast of Texas, the scale of terrible devastation is becoming clear.

Officials in the US state have updated the death toll related to the flooding to 63.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has revealed that more than 53,000 people have been left homeless by the disaster, forced into vacant hotel rooms on dry land.

FEMA has made emergency payments available to more than 18,000 families to cover the cost of their hotel rooms. Agency officials said this kind of temporary accommodation would be available for up to 30 days, and assistance paying rent elsewhere would be available for eight weeks.

But minds have turned to what happens beyond the first months of the recovery effort. FEMA has asked manufacturers to provide 4,500 pre-fabricated homes.

The recovery will be challenging, take time, and the help of the whole community is required

FEMA said it was exploring a “variety of housing options to ensure disaster survivors with housing needs receive housing assistance to help their way to recovery…the recovery will be challenging, take time, and the help of the whole community is required.”

The agency is reportedly considering bringing in thousands more mobile homes to deal with the housing crisis caused by the floods – a solution adopted in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit back in 2005.

FEMA trailers were still being used and sold on more than a decade after the disaster, despite concerns they did not meet updated safety regulations.

Other housing projects there included actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation commissioning leading architects to build 150 homes in New Orleans Lower Ninth neighbourhood, one of the hardest hit by Katrina.

In Houston, the city worst hit by Hurricane Harvey, some of the non-profit organisations providing relief for evacuees already have a track record of building homes for those in need.

The Houston Habitat for Humanity has a long history of helping build homes for low-income families and revitalizing derelict buildings in the city.

It’s one of the groups George Clooney, Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey and other stars will be raising money for during a Hurricane Harvey telethon across several major US networks on September 12.

US Congress is expected to approved the first $7.9 billion in recovery funding for those effected by the hurricane this week. But the governor of Texas believes his state may eventually need as much as $160 billion to rebuild.

Whatever the scope of the long-term planning efforts, there will remain an urgent need to come up with solutions to help people cope with housing troubles right now. Some families in south Texas have reported landlords asking for rent on flooded homes.

Over 180,000 homes in Hoston are believed to have been damaged in the floods. And around 70% of damages to homeowners’ properties will not be covered in insurance claims, according to expert estimates.

The road to recovery will be long and painful. But for many in south Texas, the process is at least now under way.

Photos: Glenn Fawcett and  Lt. Zachary West, licensed under Creative Commons

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