FEMA officials discuss permit issues with mobile housing units

FEMA officials discuss permit issues with mobile housing units

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On a mobile device? Click here to take a look at the mobile housing units

In the week since the new FEMA trailers became available, only two families have been able to get them. That is according to one official will inside knowledge of the process who called it unbelievable.

Gerard Stolar, a federal coordinating officer with FEMA, said it's very hard to say what the definitive timeline on the turnaround for getting people into the mobile units, from the time someone applies until it is actually installed.

In a House committee meeting on Homeland Security Wednesday, FEMA officials explained cutting through local red tape is slowing the process down of getting families in the Manufactured Housing Units or MHUs.

"It's function of our ability to coordinate with the local jurisdictions, having the sites approved, and everything has got to line up," Stolar said. "Involving again the utilities, those are all separate contracts that have to...or all entities that have to be dealt with before we get these units in."

The major hurdle is getting the mobile homes, which are an upgrade from the Katrina-era trailers, placed in flood zones. FEMA is working with parishes, including East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension, to obtain temporary ordinances to override the permitting issue, which is one of the biggest impediments to the process.

At the committee meeting, Stolar told Rep. Edmond Jordan that FEMA officials would not move or install a mobile housing unit without the ordinances in place.

However, in some neighborhoods, it is clear that the trailers will not fit so there will have to be an area similar to a trailer park where FEMA can put them so people can live.

"Right now I don't have a lot of trust in the flow of communication coming from FEMA and the officials," said Rep. Ted James. "Today I was told that it would not take place here but then the next question, where? Has still gone unanswered."
FEMA said temporary housing assistance will be issued on a case-by-case basis. Officials added that not everyone will be eligible for a mobile housing unit, but there are other options available.

RELATED: Temporary housing options for flood victims: short-term and long-term

Gov. John Bel Edwards' office released the following statement about the issue:

"FEMA has worked quickly to approve more than $350 million in assistance to individuals impacted by this flooding. The governor would like to see this process move faster, and we are encouraging FEMA to move install these manufactured homes in weeks, not months. There are hurdles to safely placing mobile housing units for families, and it is our hope that as the process moves forward, we can get families into them as quickly as possible."

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