(WAFB) - More than 4,000 manufactured housing units (MHUs) from FEMA are scattered through some of the hardest hit parishes, such as East Baton Rouge, Livingston, and Ascension.
Governor John Bel Edwards declared the August flood a federal disaster on August 14, 2016. FEMA's housing units will provide a temporary home for 18 months from that date, meaning until about February of 2018.
When asked what will happen to all the MHUs after 18 months, Gerard Stolar, federal coordinating officer for FEMA responded, "We'll deactivate those. We'll bring those back and we're looking at a number of options. They can be refurbished and used on another disaster or we will be talking to the state about having a donation or sales program."
While Stolar is FEMA's federal coordinating officer, Mark Riley is the state coordinating officer. Both said the option of being able to buy the unit after 18 months is up for discussion with the state. As for that 18-month deadline, it's not set in stone.
"I don't want to put words in FEMA's mouth, but if we find the need to go beyond that, we're going to have a hard conversation with FEMA about doing that," said Riley.
To date, FEMA says about 1,000 people are still in hotels.
"Our focus is currently to finish out the short-term housing issues, planning through the mid-term housing issues, and trying to develop the long-term housing issues because housing is going to be a significant effort for the recovery of the communities that were impacted by this event," said Riley.
Wayne Rickard, the federal disaster recovery coordinator with FEMA, said they learned a lot about Louisiana's housing market after this flood. "The housing market was very tight and probably initially, our applicant registrations were running 50 percent or more of renters and when you have a multi-family property that's damaged by flood, you've just taken dozens or hundreds of families out with no place to go in a tight housing market," said Rickard.
"Mobile homes are great I think for a number of households, but not all of them, and it would have been good to have another option available that perhaps could have been rolled out and installed in much quicker time. Trust us, none of us are happy with the length of time it's taken," said Stolar.
Stolar says the MHUs are intended to be the last resort for a few reasons. "It's very costly and it's very time consuming in order to get these brought into the state, inspected, installed in a safe manner," said Stolar.
"There has to be a permanent housing solution, so there are collaborative efforts that are kind of first ever here in the State of Louisiana," said Rickard.
Rickard says Governor Edwards has 27 of his cabinet heads and the Restore Louisiana Task Force discussing permanent housing solutions down the road. There is also $1.6 billion that will be available to flood victims through the Restore Louisiana Task Force. Rowdy Gaudet is heading up that effort.
"For us, it's not only the August flood, but in March of last year, Louisiana experienced a flood, so we actually have 56 of the state's 64 parishes, so we've got to get out in the parishes and go find the folks who were impacted, make sure they know there is this long-term recovery assistance available," said Gaudet.
Currently, the task force is going back and forth with the federal government and waiting on federal approval. They're hoping to have the money ready to give out to homeowners, renters, and businesses by late March or early April.
"Our program operates regardless of whether you applied to FEMA, so we've got to look at if you did get FEMA assistance, we do have to take that dollar amount into account, but if you did not apply for FEMA, you would still be able to come and talk to us," said Gaudet.
Even though $1.6 billion has been appropriated, the governor continues the fight with Washington, D.C. He asked for a total of $3.7 billion to help 100,000 households.
"We are still very short of where we need to be to be able to help everybody in the state. We're going to be able to help about 36,000 homeowners as well as some renters and small businesses and farmers," said Gaudet.
The governor returned to D.C. Wednesday asking for additional dollars for flood relief. In total, more than 153,000 registered with FEMA. Stolar said they had FEMA crews in the designated parishes immediately trying to get homeowners help financially or through other programs, but they still want to hear from residents who feel not enough has been done.
"If there's a shortfall somewhere, I would certainly like to know the specifics because I think we have worked very closely with the state to get information about our programs out," said Stolar. "I am very much inspired and admire the resilience of the people of Louisiana. I certainly understand how frustrated they are and what they have been through."
Anyone with any complaints or questions can call 1-800-621-FEMA and tell them you're calling specifically about the Louisiana August flood disaster.