FEMA: We want people to get back home

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you were a victim of the August flood, by now you've either decided to sell your home, repair it or in the Bankston's case, "as the projections were rising, the rain was continuing to pour and we knew it was going to be bad," said Tanya Bankston.

After taking on over 6 feet of water, the Bankston's demolished their Baton Rouge home just a month ago to rebuild their lives.

"We love this place and we don't want to move unless we absolutely have to. If we rebuild higher, then we'll be just fine and we can stay," said Tanya.

But until the Bankstons are back in their home, hopefully by December, they're staying in a Manufactured Housing Unit provided by FEMA. Sharon Karr with FEMA said since distributing about 4,600 MHUs last year, they've seen a decrease in use. Karr said the first family to move out was October 5, 2016.

"We have had a great number of people that have been able to return to their permanent home, about 1,900 people so far," Karr said.

FEMA said enough MHUs were installed to build a small city and the deadline to move out and into a more permanent place is about 4 months away, but homeowners do have options.

"For those people who through no fault of their own, can't get back into permanent housing, they will be able to stay in their units but they will be paying rent and they will also have a penalty. That's $550 per month," Karr explained. She says rent will be determined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and based on the fair market rent rate.

Karr also said some eligible homeowners will receive a letter of intent, giving them the option to buy.

"It will give them the option to express an interest to purchase the unit if they're eligible or say no, I don't want to purchase it. I want to stay there until the program date ends," she said.

There are currently about 2,780 families in the MHUs, but with about 13 families a day moving out, FEMA said almost 70% of the occupants are scheduled to be home by the deadline.

"We want people to get back home and that's all there is to it," said Karr.

The Individual Assistance program ends February 14, 2018.

FEMA said people cannot buy units that weren't originally in their possession and if the original owner decided not to buy or rent their unit, the condition of the trailer determines next steps.

"If it's in decent condition and it can be refurbished, it goes back into our inventory. Right now, we've got units going to Texas," Karr said.

Karr also said if the units are not in good shape, "they will be offered on the government services site where they will be auctioned. But that's as is, they can be potentially damaged but they're not able to be refurbished to be used again by a survivor of other disasters."

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