Time to Oust FEMA Trailers, New Orleans Officials Say

September 22, 2010

It’s time to get rid of nearly 260 FEMA trailers remaining of the 23,300 installed after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans five years ago, several City Council members say.

The trailers spoil the city’s image of recovery, Housing and Human Needs Committee members agreed during Monday night’s meeting, suggesting a Jan. 1 deadline.

“People are frustrated,” said Councilman Jon Johnson, whose district includes hard-hit eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. “People do not like the idea of having these trailers right next to them five years after Katrina.”

The council suspended laws forbidding trailers in most yards and driveways after the hurricane, but reinstated them in July 2008.

City Hall, FEMA and the Louisiana Recovery Authority must ensure that families still in trailers get the help they need to find decent housing, Johnson and Councilwomen Stacey Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer agreed.

“We can’t put these people out on the street,” Palmer said. She said officials must step up efforts to link residents with government and nonprofit assistance to renovate their homes or secure alternative housing before taking the trailers away.

Amanda Guma of the LRA said her agency’s pilot program of grants to nonprofit groups grants to rebuild flooded properties has been slow to launch. The state’s Office of Community Development can help families looking for permanent housing, she said.

Head suggested that on Jan. 1, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration begin enforcing laws that bar trailers. Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant called the target date “a reasonable expectation.”

Grant added that since Landrieu took office in May, 102 FEMA trailers have been hauled away.

Another 25 are in the removal process, said Charles Schexnaildre of FEMA. Another 180 units are occupied by homeowners who are waiting on Road Home grants, bank loans or nonprofit assistance to rebuild their homes, he said.

Residents who own flood-damaged homes account for 217 of the remaining trailers, and renters live in 39, data show.

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