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Highlights

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides direct temporary housing assistance in response to disasters primarily through a combination of travel trailers and manufactured homes and for a period of up to 18 months. In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated much of the housing stock across the Gulf Coast region, leaving thousands of persons in need of temporary housing for lengthy periods. Uncertainty with respect to neighborhood and community recovery and individual and community resistance to the use of travel trailers for extended temporary housing challenged the effectiveness of FEMA's traditional temporary housing options. Recognizing these challenges, Congress, in the Fiscal Year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, provided for alternative housing pilot programs in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina and the other hurricanes of the 2005 season, and appropriated $400 million to DHS for this purpose. To implement this provision of law, FEMA announced a competitive grant program--the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP)--inviting the five Gulf Coast states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) to submit proposals for projects that would demonstrate alternatives for housing disaster victims. FEMA convened a panel of officials to evaluate and score the projects. In December 2006, FEMA announced that it was awarding Mississippi up to $281.3 million for two projects, Louisiana up to $74.5 million for one project, Texas up to $16.5 million for one project, and Alabama up to $15.7 million for one project. This report examines (1) the processes FEMA followed for soliciting and evaluating AHPP project proposals, and for selecting projects for funding and determining the funding amounts; (2) how FEMA's processes compare with those of other agencies that carry out similar types of competitive grant programs; and (3) how the group of projects FEMA selected for AHPP funding, as well as other funding options, addresses the goal of identifying alternative forms of disaster housing.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security In the event that FEMA conducts future competitive grant processes for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, the Secretary of DHS should direct FEMA to consider longer time frames for applicants to prepare and submit applications.
Closed - Implemented
Although FEMA has not conducted a competitive grant process for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, FEMA concurred with the recommendation to consider longer time frames for applicants to prepare and submit applications in the event that the agency conducts a similar grant process in the future.
Department of Homeland Security In the event that FEMA conducts future competitive grant processes for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, the Secretary of DHS should direct FEMA to consider minimum and/or maximum funding amounts for grant awards.
Closed - Implemented
Although FEMA has not conducted a competitive grant process for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, FEMA concurred with the recommendation to consider minimum and/or maximum funding amounts for grant awards in the event that the agency conducts a similar grant process in the future.
Department of Homeland Security In the event that FEMA conducts future competitive grant processes for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, the Secretary of DHS should direct FEMA to consider stating explicitly the relative importance of the rating criteria that the agency will use to evaluate applications.
Closed - Implemented
Although FEMA has not conducted a competitive grant process for the purpose of identifying alternative, new, or innovative forms of disaster housing, FEMA concurred with the recommendation to consider stating explicitly the relative importance of the rating criteria that the agency will use to evaluate applications in the event that the agency conducts a similar grant process in the future.

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