FEMA Increases Temporary Housing Rental Assistance for NY Hurricane Victims
State and federal officials are worried about an increase in the number of those displaced by Hurricane Sandy seeking temporary shelter. Although many people have stayed home despite having neither heat nor hot water, particularly in city housing projects in Coney Island and the Rockaways, officials are worried that another wave of people will seek shelter as temperatures fall and they can no longer bear the cold.
On Nov. 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that the agency is increasing the amount of rental assistance that it may provide eligible disaster survivors in New York and New Jersey as part of ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of families and individuals affected by the hurricane. FEMA is increasing the amount of rental assistance that it may provide for eligible disaster survivors in New York from 100 percent of the FY2013 Fair Market Rent (FMR) to 125 percent of FMR. HUD FMR rates are rental cost estimates that include the cost of the shelter and all other tenant-paid utilities except telephone, cable, and Internet services. HUD designs annual FMR levels to be high enough to allow for a wide selection of available units, yet low enough so that as many units as possible may be rented and provided to low-income families.
This increase is due to the high cost of housing in metropolitan New York. Immediately after the recent disasters in the Northeast, FEMA evaluated the number of available rental resources within Metropolitan New York that might be available to house disaster survivors. It was quickly apparent that the cost of available rental units could become a limiting factor, so FEMA authorized funds to increase the existing rental assistance in New York to exceed current FY2013 levels. The increase is expected to make an additional 1,800 rental resources available for temporary housing of disaster-affected families in New York. In the New York area, FEMA would provide about $1,800 a month in rental assistance for up to 18 months. That would cover most housing in Brooklyn and Queens, but owners have told officials that this would fall short of covering many units in Manhattan.
For owners to be allowed to accept FEMA vouchers and welcome disaster victims, they have to overcome a series of statutory and legal hurdles. At recent industry meetings with officials, owners have brought these obstacles up. In apartments that operate under the state’s rent stabilization laws, there’s no provision for short-term tenants. And some owners have asked whether the government would indemnify them for apartment damages or legal costs if they were forced to evict a tenant.