Community Planning and Development
On December 30, 2005, President Bush signed the FY 2006 Defense Appropriation Act providing $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster supplemental funding to the areas impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
On April 4, 2006, Secretary Alphonso Jackson approved Mississippi's initial Disaster Action Plan to distribute $3.4 billion in CDBG disaster supplemental funds. In its plan, the state indicated that it will make one-time grants of up to $150,000 to aid households whose primary residences were located outside of pre-Katrina designated flood zones. In addition, eligible homeowners will receive grants of up to $30,000 to defray costs associated with elevating homes to meet new elevation requirements. The remaining $1.6 billion allocated to the state is planned to assist Mississippi's public housing authorities, unmet infrastructure needs, and other disaster-related recovery needs. To date, Mississippi has expended over $15 million in CDBG disaster supplemental funds.
On May 1, 2006, Secretary Jackson approved Alabama's supplemental CDBG Disaster Action Plan and awarded the state $74,388,000. The state will distribute funds to local jurisdictions and Indian tribes to address housing and infrastructure needs.
On May 9, 2006, Secretary Jackson approved the state of Louisiana's initial supplemental CDBG Disaster Action Plan and awarded the state $368.4 million in CDBG disaster supplemental funds to help meet the state's infrastructure needs, provide interest-free small business bridge loans and support long-term planning efforts. On May 30, 2006, Secretary Jackson approved an amended plan and awarded an additional $4.6 billion of the state's original $6.2 billion to fund Louisiana's Road Home Program. This program provides up to $150,000 to eligible homeowners whose primary residences were located outside pre-Katrina designated flood zones and were destroyed or severely damaged following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. To date, Louisiana has expended almost $30 million of their total allocation.
On May 22, 2006, Secretary Jackson approved Texas's supplemental CDBG Disaster Action Plan and awarded the state $74,523,000 to target unmet housing and infrastructure needs in the East Texas counties hit by Hurricane Rita.
On July 11, 2006, at the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans, HUD's Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi, Chairman Donald E. Powell, the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced an additional $5.2 billion in emergency CDBG funding for the Gulf Coast states to support long-term recovery from last year's hurricanes. As requested by President Bush, $4.2 billion was allocated to the state of Louisiana. HUD conducted panel meetings with the other states to discuss allocation requests and data used to make those findings. On August 18, 2006, Secretary Jackson announced these allocations as follows: Texas - $428 million, Mississippi - $423 million, Alabama - $21 million and Florida - $100 million.
On July 26, 2006, Secretary Jackson approved Florida's supplemental CDBG Disaster Action Plan and awarded the state $82,904,000, its entire allocation under the first supplemental. The Disaster Action Plan designates at least 70% of the funding to restore the state's affordable housing stock.
HUD is using its Disaster Recovery Grant Report system to comply with quarterly Congressional reporting requirements and to aid in the detection and prevention of fraud, abuse, or mismanagement.
HUD and IRS partnered to create nine workshops co-hosted by Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas communities that detailed the $8.6 billion in Gulf Opportunity Zone benefits and $1.1 billion in Renewal Community benefits available to stimulate local reinvestment and new investment and provide information on the twenty-six Gulf Opportunity Zone tax incentive provisions. HUD and IRS are also working jointly on the Earned Income Tax Credit and media outreach to promote usage of the Gulf Opportunity Zone incentives.
Office of Housing
On June 30, 2006, the Federal Housing Administration provided a limited extension of the foreclosure moratorium provided by Mortgagee Letter 2006-12 in that some Mississippi and Louisiana borrowers whose properties were moderately or severely damaged by the hurricanes may be eligible for grant assistance, but have not yet had the opportunity to apply for and receive funds. These grant funds would allow mortgagors to rebuild their homes or, if rebuilding is not feasible, preserve good credit standing by paying off their mortgage debt. Therefore, for borrowers who may be eligible to apply for Community Development Block Grant funds under either the Mississippi or Louisiana state programs, HUD is extending the foreclosure moratorium to August 31, 2006 (Mortgagee Letter 2006-18).
As of August 2006, more than 4,000 borrowers living in disaster-declared areas (i.e., AL, FL, LA, MS, and TX) have been assisted through mortgage assistance or foreclosure relief efforts.
HUD entered in to an agreement with FEMA that set forth the conditions and a protocol for the transfer of HUD Real Estate Owned (REO) properties held off the market and made available to FEMA for displaced families. As of August 2006, more than 2,000 HUD homes have been repaired and leased to displaced families.
HUD currently owns approximately 28,000 single-family properties nationwide. To assist thousands of displaced families looking for affordable replacement housing once they have settled with insurance companies and satisfied their former mortgage commitments, in May 2006, the Department began offering all HUD-owned homes at a discount to displaced homebuyers. Evacuees, leasing HUD properties, now have an opportunity to purchase the properties prior to the expiration of their lease at a ten percent (10%) discount and receive a fifteen percent (15%) escrow to cover needed repairs and/or household items. In addition, all evacuees have an opportunity to purchase a HUD-owned home anywhere in the country, prior to it being offered to the public, at a ten percent (10%) discount off the list price. As of August 2006, HUD had accepted 68 sales contracts from hurricane evacuees and sold nine properties at a discount to evacuees. In an effort to assist these homebuyers with their purchases, HUD has made 100% financing available using its 203(h) loan program.
Public and Indian Housing
Prior to Katrina, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), which had been under HUD receivership, had 7,000 public housing units of which approximately 5,000 were occupied. As a result of Katrina, all public housing residents were evacuated. After the Hurricane, HANO reoccupied approximately 1,000 units at Iberville, Guste, Fischer, and River Garden (formerly St. Thomas) where damage was limited. HANO and HUD have identified another 1,000 units that were not materially affected by the hurricane and are working to temporarily reoccupy the vast majority of these units by the end of September 2006.
At the time of Hurricane Katrina, HANO had approximately 9,000 vouchers. Since Katrina, HANO has issued 119 Housing Choice Vouchers, 1,721 Disaster Vouchers, and there are approximately 2,400 voucher holders currently searching for housing.
HANO has completed 20 units at the Fisher development. These are the first newly constructed units since the hurricane. In addition, the developer of the Desire development will start reconstruction by the end of August on over 100 units at Abundance Square and Treasure Village that were severely damaged by the hurricane.
HANO continues to work with and provide services to the residents. For example, HANO sponsored the Children's Defense Fund "Freedom School", a model summer program for reading enrichment, youth leadership development and parent engagement. Approximately 50 public housing youth are participating in this program in New Orleans and 20 youth are participating in Houston. HANO is also affiliated with the New Orleans Monarchs baseball team for 9-year olds. A substantial number of the players come from HANO's public housing. The Team won the Louisiana State Title and placed 5th in the Triple USA National World Series in Southhaven, MS. Finally, HANO partnered with JOB! to assist with summer employment. Approximately 65 youth workers were working in various Departments at HANO.
Within the past 6 months, HUD has developed and implemented a comprehensive disaster housing assistance program to convert families from FEMA's initial housing response directing HUD, under a Mission Assignment, to assist previously HUD-assisted families to HUD's Disaster Voucher Program (DVP).
In a continuation of HUD housing disaster assistance to displaced families and in transitioning from the initial Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance Program (KDHAP) funded under a FEMA Mission Assignment to the new DVP provided under the Supplemental Appropriations, HUD has provided guidance to more than 3,000 Public Housing Authorities (PHA) on the transition. The conversion of KDHAP families to DVP conducted by HUD was seamless.
Guidance was provided via a satellite broadcast for the PHAs, interest groups, field offices, and the general public on February 9, 2006. Additionally, PIH Notice 2006-12, Disaster Voucher Program (DVP) Operating Requirements -- Rental Assistance for HUD-Assisted Families and Special Needs Families Displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was issued on February 3, 2006. In a continuing effort to supplement the guidance, PIH continued to post Q & As to the PIH website. As a result of HUD efforts, over 27,000 families have been assisted, with over 20,000 units leased and more than $113 million in assistance disbursed.
HUD's Office of Native American Programs worked closely with all Native American tribes affected by Hurricane Katrina. PIH distributed $2 million in Indian Community Development Block Grant Imminent Threat funding to the Chitmacha, Mississippi Choctaw, Poarch Creek, Tunica Biloxi, and Alabama Coushatta tribes to rebuild damaged housing and infrastructure.
HUD approved and funded a $21.8 million grant to HANO from the Capital Fund Reserve for Emergencies and Natural Disasters to repair and rebuild damaged public housing.
HUD approved and funded a $7 million grant to Biloxi Mississippi Housing Authority from the Capital Fund Reserve for Emergencies and Natural Disasters to repair and rebuild damaged public housing.
Policy Development & Research
On March 6, 2006, HUD increased the Fair Market Rents (FMR) in the New Orleans metropolitan area by 35 percent and in the Baton Rouge area by 25 percent. HUD economists determined that both rental housing markets had experienced rent increases due to the enormous impacts from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – both in terms of damage to the rental inventory and the increased demand for the remaining inventory. HUD is continuing to monitor the rental markets in these two areas, and will modify FMRs again, if further rent increases occur. In addition, HUD is monitoring rental markets in other areas (Beaumont-Port Arthur, Dallas, Jackson, Houston, Little Rock, San Antonio, and Shreveport), which are housing significant numbers of hurricane evacuees, to determine if the reduction in rental vacancies in these markets would also warrant FMR increases.
The Universities Rebuilding America Partnership (URAP) Programs was launched to provide critical resources and assistance to communities impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to revitalize their communities and rebuild their lives. On March 8, 2006, 16 grants were awarded totaling $5.2 million.
HUD worked with HANO to help develop an employment program for HANO residents and assist HANO in connecting with social services programs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In completing these objectives, the HUD team met with over 40 social service providers and employers in Orleans Parrish and assisted HANO staff to collect baseline data and develop long-term processes for resident outreach. The project was initially limited to the Fischer Public Housing Development, with the goal of developing and implementing models at Fisher that could be scaled-up for agency-wide implementation.
HUD obtained data from FEMA and SBA in order to develop information regarding the extent of housing damage in the Gulf Region. Estimates have been aggregated to the county and in some cases to the neighborhood, and categorized by damage to rental property, to low-income homeowners and to other homeowners. The information regarding the extent of housing damage in the Gulf Region have been posted on the web, and used as follows:
- HUD used the information to allocate $11.5 Billion in supplemental CDBG funds for disaster recovery on January 25th.
- The President used the information to justify his request on February 15th for an additional $4.2 billion to assist with Louisiana recovery.
- The affected states have used the information to develop their housing plans for long-term recovery. In particular, Louisiana used the information extensively in the Louisiana Road Home plan submitted to HUD in April.
- HUD used the information to respond to several Congressional inquiries about the extent of housing damage in the Gulf Region, including the extent of damage to HUD assisted stock.
- HUD held a training symposium on disaster resistant construction in Biloxi for MS PHA's, CHOOSE and local governments.
- HUD participated in the Mississippi Governors Reconstruction "Expo" disseminating extensive materials on PATH, disaster resistant technologies
HUD worked with Home Depot to conduct workshops for homeowners on hurricane preparedness to increase their understanding regarding do-it-yourself repairs or contract repairs, in Kenner, Louisiana, Biloxi, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and Fort Myers, Florida. In addition, HUD released "Tech Sets" on storm resistant roofing and wind resistant openings for use by homeowners, builders, and community officials.
Office of Inspector General
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has developed and currently participates in a far-reaching fraud prevention program in the affected states of the Gulf Coast Region, sponsoring training courses and workshops in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. These presentations and workshops are designed to educate State Agencies, as well as federal, State, and local law enforcement to identify fraud in HUD grant programs, as well as other affected HUD programs.
To date, HUD OIG has opened 50 hurricane-related cases, which have resulted in 9 arrests, 9 indictments, and 3 convictions.
OIG has established a new division as a result of its responsibilities to combating waste fraud and abuse in the Gulf Coast States. The Hurricane Recovery Audit Oversight Division performs audits of the disaster funding, working directly with the HUD Office of Investigations, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.
The Office of Audit has developed an audit plan, and begun reviews in the disaster areas. It is performing audits of the more than $17 million in contracts issued for disaster-related procurement activities. The Office of Audit is also in the process of starting a review of the various states' systems of controls over the issuance of the Community Development Block Grant funding. These reviews are timely and will assist in establishing a presence and acting as a real-time deterrent to waste and abuse in HUD's activities.
To date, HUD OIG has opened three hurricane-related audits, (two audits of real estate owned (REO) properties to house evacuees, and one of the emergency contacting activities) which have resulted in management recommendations and questioned costs. The Office of Audit is also in the process of starting a review of the states' (specifically Louisiana and Mississippi) system of controls over the issuance of the $16 Billion in Community Development and Block Grant funding.
Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives
The Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives (CFBCI) developed and implemented a communication strategy including the production and distribution of Hurricane Toolkit: Recovery After the Storm, an informational guide to federal and local resources available to hurricane victims, and the organizations serving them. To date, over 50,000 hard copies have been distributed, and the publication has been posted on HUD's website.
CFBCI expanded technical assistance and outreach to hurricane affected areas reaching over 1,485 people between April and July. This training will better equip the community and its organizations to make best use of this supplemental funding and ensure compliance with Federal law.
CFBCI directly contacted nearly 20,000 faith-based and community organizations, enlisting them in the Department's effort to promote and apply fair housing practices to post-Katrina projects, and to help HUD enroll victims in the KDHAP.
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) deployed a cadre of equal opportunity specialists to Louisiana and Mississippi to conduct an aggressive fair housing education and outreach campaign throughout the Gulf coast region and to directly assist evacuees who reported housing discrimination. FHEO staff visited over 60 Disaster Relief Centers and Long Term Recovery Centers, where Center personnel received instruction on identifying housing discrimination issues and contacting FHEO representatives for assistance. Fair housing educational materials were supplied to every Center throughout Louisiana and Mississippi for distribution and display. FHEO staff visited hotels, shelters, and FEMA trailer parks to meet with displaced families about their fair housing rights. Further, in the first month following Hurricane Katrina, HUD placed advertisements in local newspapers throughout the Gulf Coast Region, advising people of the Fair Housing Act's prohibitions of discrimination and how to report discrimination to HUD. HUD officials were featured on radio and television programs to provide information on fair housing and encourage individuals to report incidents of discrimination.
In October 2005, HUD initiated a review of FEMA trailer units and park sites to evaluate accessibility for evacuees with mobility impairments. In partnership with FEMA, the Department of Justice, FHEO staff visited temporary housing sites and trailer staging areas, conducting accessibility assessments of various unit models and sizes. Staff assessed the common areas of FEMA trailer park sites, including play areas, laundry facilities, meal centers, and pedestrian routes. Based on these assessments, HUD and DOJ made technical recommendations to maximize the level of accessibility for evacuees with disabilities. FEMA adopted HUD's recommendations, modified procurement, and design specifications to reflect the technical revisions. Further, based on recommendations made by HUD, FEMA agreed to increase the availability of accessible temporary housing units and adopt additional procedures for ensuring the development of accessible sites. This collaboration between FEMA, HUD and DOJ resulted in the production of accessible temporary housing units and the development of accessible trailer parks for thousands evacuees with disabilities.
Within weeks following Hurricane Katrina, HUD distributed approximately $1.2 million in fair housing partnership funds to the State of Louisiana Department of Justice, a Fair Housing Assistance Program funded by HUD to conduct fair housing enforcement. Under agreement with HUD, the Department of Justice collaborated with several nonprofit fair housing organizations along the Gulf Coast to provide immediate fair housing advocacy and assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
On January 19, 2006 in Houston, Texas, Secretary Jackson launched a nationwide public education campaign to inform home-seeking evacuees of their fair housing rights and publicize HUD's fair housing enforcement hotline. Working with the Ad Council, the nation's top producer of Public Service Announcements, FHEO produced compelling television, radio, and newspaper ads that inform the public "the storm isn't over" for those evacuees who are facing discrimination in their search for new housing. The ads advise viewers that HUD is the federal agency charged with combating housing discrimination and inform them about how to report incidents of discrimination. HUD allocated approximately $500,000 to conduct this public education campaign and to distribute related educational materials directly to hurricane victims throughout the Gulf Coast Region.
In November 2005 and continuing into the Spring, HUD conducted a series of accessibility workshops throughout the Gulf Coast Region, targeted to ensure accessibility in newly built replacement housing covered by the Fair Housing Act. FHEO's Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program, highly regarded by both industry and disability groups, held technical trainings on the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements. The program held workshops in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida, and participants included builders, architects, developers, building code officials and housing advocates, among others.
On September 8, 2005, Ginnie Mae announced that it would expand its Targeted Lending Initiative (TLI) to include those census tracts that were declared disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The TLI provides incentives for lenders to increase loan volumes in traditionally underserved areas by decreasing the guaranty fee Ginnie Mae collects on its mortgage-backed securities, depending on the percentage of eligible loans within each security. Between October 2005 and June 2006, Ginnie Mae securities receiving this TLI discount included 3,069 loans from the Hurricane Katrina census tracts with original principal balances of over $368 million.
Field Policy and Management
FPM staff initiated housing counseling sessions, using both local counseling agencies and HUD program staff, to assist families in the purchase of homes in their new communities. Beyond the fundamentals of the homebuying process, evacuees were also advised of their eligibility under HUD's 203(h) and other mortgage insurance programs. Counseling sessions were also targeted to evacuee families now living in HUD Homes (single family foreclosed properties) to educate them on the process for purchasing and retaining their current residences.
The Houston Field Office was elevated to a "full-service office" on July 11, 2006. Full program participation will afford the Houston Office the opportunity to better serve the community, including the thousands of evacuees who have moved to the city. It will provide local direct programmatic leadership for the offices of Community Planning and Development, Single Family Housing, and Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
HUD sponsored several workshops to advise local governments, non-profits and community groups of specific programs and types of assistance available from HUD and provided program-specific technical assistance. At the request of local mayors whose areas were affected, FPM established temporary space in Biloxi with a staff presence to coordinate all HUD technical assistance requests by local elected officials from the nearby area. The Houston Field Office facilitated a summit on December 14, 2005, in Beaumont, Texas during which state local agencies played provided briefings and technical assistance on disaster-related programs for housing and community redevelopment in the area.
FPM staff provided coverage for 135 FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) and local one-stop centers throughout the affected region immediately following the hurricane until January 2006. The centers were established to facilitate assistance to the public during the recovery efforts. Staff gave on-site referrals of individuals and families to specific assistance sources and acted as a liaison with state and local partners to ensure effective service delivery.
Office of General Counsel
Pursuant to formal requests from HUD's Office of General Counsel, FEMA advised that it would reimburse State and local governments for all emergency sheltering costs eligible under the Stafford Act, regardless of whether the costs were provided for first with CDBG or HOME funds.