FEMA Trailers Will Stay In New Orleans

New Orleans, UNITED STATES: A worker crosses a street lined with FEMA trailers and flood-damaged homes still under repair in the Gentilly section of New Orleans, 28 August 2006 AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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A February deadline to get residents out of thousands of travel trailers in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina will not be kept, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.

That month marks the 18-month deadline set for FEMA relief following President Bush's disaster declaration. But since the city's recovery has been slow, officials now say there will not be enough housing.

"We're going to go beyond 18 months," said Darryl Madden, spokesman for FEMA's Gulf Coast recovery office.

The private sector must step up the pace of getting new housing units to market, Madden said.

"We doubt seriously whether there will be enough private investment in housing to supplant the need for the trailers by next February," he said. "And when you look at the landscape right now, and then you look forward, how much housing stock is going to come on line in the next three months? The next six months?"

The pace of reconstruction is expected to quicken this fall as billions of dollars flow to homeowners through Louisiana's Road Home program. Officials with the Housing Authority of New Orleans said they will get 1,000 apartments open in less than three months.

Four housing projects will be used, along with scattered-site units.

The Brookings Institute, a research think-tank, said that FEMA has spent roughly $7.5 billion since hurricanes Katrina and Rita on trailers and manufactured homes, of which roughly 115,000 are now occupied on the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, rental assistance has been provided to 680,000 people at a cost of $4.1 billion, Brookings analyst Matt Fellowes said.

"It's been an inefficient investment on their part," he said. "Now they've saddled themselves with this huge, expensive program."

In the New Orleans region, flood victims occupy almost 60,000 trailers, according to most recent FEMA statistics, while several thousand more households are still awaiting a trailer.

Madden said he did not know how long FEMA has maintained trailer parks, but some in Florida have been in place for two years or more, and some local organizations think a similar time frame is likely in Louisiana. Madden offered no deadline and said no timetable has been set.