Nassau, Suffolk seek FEMA funds for Sandy housing
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Nassau and Suffolk counties will ask FEMA to pay for privately supplied mobile homes for residents displaced by superstorm Sandy, allowing them to keep their children in local schools and oversee repairs to storm-damaged houses.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said Monday he had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to "expand the options" for housing available to include renting mobile homes for use on private properties where houses were damaged.
Suffolk County is making the same effort, said Jill Rosen-Nikoloff, the county's real estate director.
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A federal official familiar with the discussions confirmed the agency is considering funding mobile homes to be placed on homeowners' properties.
Two weeks after the storm hit, federal, state and county officials are still trying to determine the number of residents left homeless and in need of temporary housing.
Existing FEMA-funded options include hotels and motels, apartments and the possibility of FEMA-owned mobile homes being brought in to be used at undetermined sites.
Mangano said Nassau had enlisted private mobile home vendors "happy to try to fill" the shortage during a post-Sandy housing crunch. One supplier said he could provide between 600 and 800 units, Mangano said.
"I believe the residents of Nassau need more options," Mangano said, adding FEMA "has been receptive to the ideas I've been offering them."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said addressing the housing crisis would have to consider residents' preferences.
"I think the preferences here would be to rent an apartment in your neighborhood or have a trailer you could rent yourself on your property," Bellone said. "The question is: Do we have enough capacity in trailers and capacity in apartments?"
Bellone said the housing issue was the county's "top priority right now."
The sentiment was echoed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said, "It is not a power issue any longer. It is a housing issue."
Cuomo said he would request $30 billion in additional funding from Congress to pay for storm costs. About $1.65 billion of that would help rebuild damaged homes. The aid would be in addition to any money the state gets from existing federal programs, and probably would come as part of an overall supplemental appropriation by Congress for states hit hard by the storm, the governor said.
Rosen-Nikoloff said Monday that Suffolk County was working to identify suppliers who could provide the mobile homes.
"We are talking about privately supplied mobile homes on homeowners' properties, but reimbursed by the federal government," she said.
Bellone spoke to Cuomo about using the mobile homes as a possible housing option, Rosen-Nikoloff said. "FEMA and the state have invited us to identify mobile home providers," she said.
Thousands of Long Island residents given housing assistance money from FEMA have found hotel and motel rooms while they await more permanent housing solutions.
Others are still searching for accommodations close to home that wouldn't require driving long distances to work or school during a gasoline shortage.
Mangano and Bellone created housing advisory committees to consider a range of options, including unused space in nursing homes, military bases and college campuses, as well as homes left empty by mortgage foreclosures.
Putting mobile homes on private property for temporary use is not unprecedented, Mangano said.
Victims of residential fires have used the manufactured housing while their homes were repaired, he said. Utility hookups would be required, he said.
"These are 14 by 40 [feet], in that range," and typically parked on a driveway or lawn, Mangano said. "This is not a solution for everyone. Clearly, there's going to be a group that requires a permanent housing need."
FEMA inspectors had evaluated 1,723 damaged homes as of Sunday and issued two-month rental assistance checks to 1,280 homeowners, Rosen-Nikoloff said. The number is likely to rise because many of the hardest-hit areas in Suffolk were inaccessible to FEMA inspectors until Monday.