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United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548

November 16, 2007

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman Chairman The Honorable Susan M. Collins Ranking Member Committee on Homeland Security and

Governmental Affairs United States Senate

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage to the Gulf Coast, killing over 1,000 people and obliterating homes and entire towns through wind and rain damage, flooding, and the destruction of roads, bridges, and water and sewer lines. In Mississippi alone, reports estimate that Katrina destroyed or damaged approximately 134,000 homes and 10,000 rental units.1 As part of the federal response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided many of these displaced individuals with temporary housing in the form of travel trailers and mobile homes.2 According to FEMA, 17,608 households in Mississippi were still residing in travel trailers and mobile homes as of August 2007. These households will be allowed to continue this occupancy through March 2009.3

1See Mississippi Home Corporation, Estimate of Homes Destroyed or Damaged by Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi (Oct. 7, 2005) and Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Center for Justice Rental Unit Survey of the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006).

2According to FEMA, a travel trailer is a recreational vehicle that is designed for short, temporary habitation, not housing. In contrast, a mobile (or manufactured) home is a structure, transportable in one or more sections, which is built on a permanent chassis and is designed for use with or without a permanent foundation when attached to the required utilities. The term manufactured home does not include a recreational vehicle. Generally, manufactured homes must meet the same requirements as stick built or conventional housing.

3Beginning in March 2008, individuals residing in these units will pay a portion of the cost for rent, which will begin at $50 per month and incrementally increase each month thereafter until the program concludes on March 1, 2009. FEMA also began allowing residents of its mobile homes and travel trailers to purchase their dwellings at a fair and equitable price; however, on August 1, 2007, FEMA temporarily suspended sales while the agency works with health and environmental experts to assess health-related concerns raised by occupants.

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GAO-08-106 Hurricane Katrina

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