FEMA Disaster Housing and Hurricane Katrina: Overview, Analysis, and Congressional Issues [Updated April 16, 2008]   [open pdf - 326KB]

"Some have criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) emergency housing policies, particularly its approach to health and safety standards (as exemplified by the evidence of formaldehyde in both trailers and mobile homes), as well as its overall strategy to perform its housing mission. To address disaster housing issues, Congress could opt to consider questions such as the following: how have disaster housing needs traditionally been addressed under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended)? How did FEMA's approach during Hurricane Katrina differ from previous disasters and why? Should FEMA have pursued expanded authorities at the start of the disaster? Should housing vouchers have been used earlier and tailored to the disaster event? With a substantial amount of available funding provided by Congress, but without requesting expanded authority, FEMA found its sole option was to use traditional disaster housing practices. Those practices, successful for disasters of a historically familiar size, were hard-pressed to meet the unprecedented demands of the Katrina catastrophic disaster. There are potential events (New Madrid earthquake or other large natural or terrorist events) that could conceivably produce many of the same challenges presented by the Gulf Coast hurricane season of 2005. Those challenges include large, displaced populations spread across the nation and separated families unable to return because of the loss of not only their homes but also their places of employment. Federal disaster housing policy may remain an issue in the 110th Congress, because, as Hurricane Katrina illustrated, the continued existence of communities after a catastrophic event involves extensive federal assistance issues."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34087
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