FEMA May Use Foreclosed Homes As Hurricane Shelters

The idea, still in its early stages, could help limit the geographic dispersion of communities.

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With hurricane season upon us, federal officials say they might turn foreclosed homes in Florida into temporary housing for those displaced by "catastrophic" storms, The Associated Press reports:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told The Associated Press that it might consider using foreclosed homes if hotels, shelters and other housing options are full and only for a catastrophic situation, such as Hurricane Katrina. The idea was discussed at a hurricane drill this week in Florida.

Jeff Bryant, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for Florida, said the agency will work with other federal agencies such as Housing and Urban Development and state emergency planners to see if it could be a solution.

If the proposal works in Florida, it could serve as a model nationally. In April, there were 278,287 homes in some stage of foreclosure in Florida, according to RealtyTrac. The idea isn't wholly new: about 100 families were moved into foreclosed homes after Katrina, FEMA said.

"When you have a diaspora that leaves the state it's very hard to get those guys back. You really want to prevent them from leaving the state," Bryant said. "We want to keep them in their same local community."

FEMA would likely contact banks, other mortgage holders and their representatives to compile a list of available homes. The evacuees would then be assigned homes close to their own and FEMA would use a contractor, acting as its agent, to pay rent directly to whoever owns the home, said Jon Arno, FEMA's individual assistance branch director for Florida. His duties include finding temporary housing for disaster victims.